The big news in the prospect world for Wednesday: the Minnesota Twins officially promoted right-handed pitcher Jose Berrios to the major leagues. He'll make his debut today against the Cleveland Indians. The Twins need some good news right now. Will Berrios provide it? Let's take a look.
Basics first. Berrios was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2012 from high school in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The 32nd overall pick in the draft, he went higher than any other Puerto Rican high school pitcher in history. He's made a steady and successful rise through the minors with improvement every year. In 2014 he posted a 2.76 ERA with a 140/38 K/BB in 140 innings split between High-A, Double-A, and one start in Triple-A. In 2015 he ran up a 2.87 ERA with a 175/38 K/BB innings in the high minors.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 190 DOB: May 27, 1994
2013: Grade B; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B+
Jose Berrios led the minor leagues with 175 strikeouts last year. You don’t do that without talent and Berrios has plenty, featuring a 92-95 MPH fastball with good life and a very impressive change-up. His breaking ball draws mixed reviews; some rate it as just a so-so slurve but other observers think it is quite solid. He throws strikes with everything and was excellent down the stretch for Rochester, with a 49/3 K/BB in his last 41 innings. International League observers felt he was ready for a major league trial in September but the Twins opted not to promote him, citing workload reasons. His mound presence is first-class, especially for someone his age, and his combination of stuff and command looks big league ready to me. Berrios is generally projected as a future number three starter, but I think that could be under-selling him. Grade A-.
Berrios was dominating Triple- A again (1.06 ERA in his first three starts) and is clearly ready for his debut. His breaking stuff has firmed up and there are no longer any serious concerns about it. Three above-average pitches, with sharp command, good health, and plus makeup; it is hard to beat such a package. He has been one of my favorite pitchers for several years, back to his time in high school.
If you want to nitpick something, I've heard a few cautious comments about his arm action (visible in seconds 4-5 in the first video clip) but his athleticism helps him repeat the delivery. Aside from a brief dead-arm period in the summer of 2013 (his first pro season), he's never had any health concerns. His injury risk should be no higher than the typical pitcher his age. In fact it may be lower, given his efficient use of pitches and overall athleticism.
These MinorLeagueBaseball.com videos are from late last year but they give the general idea about Berrios. He can get hitters to chase the high fastball:
Or he can cross them up with breaking stuff.
Here he is taking on the Red Sox in 2016 spring training.
Key features to watch for in his debut: does he use all three pitches? Is his command within the strike zone, quite sharp in the minors, as good in the majors? He has a reputation as an "ice in the veins" type who handles pressure very well. Does this remain true on the big stage?