Last week I looked at Byron Buxton and some opinions on his talents from Keith Law, Baseball America, and Kevin Goldstein. The supplemental round of the draft brought the Twins a pair of highly-regarded pitchers in Jose Orlando Berrios and Luke Bard.
Berrios became the highest-drafted Puerto Rican pitcher in MLB history, surpassing Luis Atilano (No. 35 overall to the Braves in 2003). Bard, the younger brother of Red Sox hurler Daniel Bard, pitched out of Georgia Tech's bullpen. Both come with their flaws, as is typical in the supplemental round, but both come with plenty of upside, which I'll get into after the jump.
Reports from Law and Baseball America have Berrios as a somewhat undersized righty (Law says he looks to be two inches shorter than the 6'1" he's listed at) with good velocity at a young age. Berrios sits 93-95mph with the heater, though Law had him touching 96 at times and BA had him as high as 98mph. At times, Law writes that he doesn't have good plane on the pitch. That could be due to his size, and as a high schooler, there's time for Berrios to grow a bit more. He displayed his tremendous work ethic by adding roughly 25 pounds of muscle in working with a trainer since last summer. Berrios also picked up some late buzz when he no-hit No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa's Puerto Rican team in what would've been a perfect game had it not been for a dropped third strike.
Some scouts see him as a reliever because they feel that only his fastball and sharp, 80-82mph breaking pitch (BA calls it a slider, while Law refers to it as a "hard, downward-breaking curveball") as potential plus pitches. Berrios will need to hone a raw changeup that he also throws in the low 80s in order to stick as a starter at the professional level. The Twins have had some success in developing changeups, and it's a pitch they've emphasized quite often.
BA ranked Berrios 49th prior to the draft, and their report seems to be more favorable than Law (although in my opinion Law is more blunt in general). Law grades out Berrios' future on the 20-80 scale (present rating, future rating):
Fastball: 55, 55
Fastball Movement: 45, 45
Command: 40, 50
Control: 45, 55
Curveball: 55, 60
Changeup: 50, 50
If the Twins can develop a solid changeup for Berrios, it seems like he'll project as a solid three-pitch starter with plus velocity. If not, there's still potential for him to become an effective reliever. That's not a bad thing to net at No. 32 overall. We saw what happens without any of those last season.
The first thing to be aware of about Bard is that he didn't pitch in April or May because of a torn lat muscle. He'd worked out of the 'pen at Georgia Tech with a power fastball, but the Twins will give him every opportunity to start, per Terry Ryan on 1500 ESPN over the weekend.
Bard had been considered a lock for the supplemental round and candidate to be a late first round pick, but the torn muscle knocked him down some teams' boards. Law likes his velocity more than BA, citing 92-97mph velocity while BA has him in the 93-95mph range. Either of those ranges is a stark improvement over the velocity most Twins farmhands boast.
Law has Bard at a 3/4 arm slot with a mid-80s slider that he commands well to right-handed batters. His biggest concerns for Bard are command against left-handed hitting and lack of a third pitch. He does, according to both reports, have the arm to be a starter, but he'll need some work. Like Berrios, Bard's success likely hinges on the Twins' ability to develop a plus changeup. If he ends up as a reliever, touching 97mph with a swing-and-miss slider is a good profile to start from. His current/future 20-80 ratings from Law:
Fastball: 65, 65
Fastball Movement: 50, 50
Command: 40, 45
Control: 40, 50
Slider: 55, 60
One interesting note for me in all of this is the ability of the first two pitchers selected to hold velocity in the mid-90s. When looking back to the 2011 draft, both Hudson Boyd and Madison Boer were said to have touched 95-96mph, but comfortably sat in the 90-93mph range. Each pitcher the Twins drafted in the first four rounds this season are said to possess the ability to hold velocity in the mid-90s, according to BA. That same outlet had all of the pitchers the Twins took in the first four rounds of the 2011 draft sitting in the 90-93 range. In 2010, the Twins took only four pitchers in the first 11 rounds, none of whom offered plus velocity.
Listening to Terry Ryan on 1500 this past weekend, I was struck by how emphatically he stressed a need for pitching, and a need for starters. The Twins sound like they'll give everyone they took in the early portion of the draft a chance to start, and while that may lead to diminished velocity in a few cases, it won't happen across the board.
Berrios' velocity has come as a starter. Law feels Bard's fastball will be his best pitch, even as a starter. Mason Melotakis, taken in the second round (No. 63) maintained 94-96mph velocity in starts despite working primarily out of the bullpen, according to BA. Zach Jones (fourth round, No. 133) has topped out at 98mph in the bullpen.
It seems like Terry Ryan has changed the draft philosophy the Twins employ in an attempt to provide the Twins not only with rotation depth, but to provide the Twins with new types of arms. Maybe that's reading too much into college velocity reports. Maybe it's just coincidence. But this crop of draft talent looks different than what we've become accustomed to. I, for one, am not complaining.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com fantasy baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve
Afterthought: I can't recommend subscribing to services like BA, ESPN, and BP highly enough. The content produced by these outlets is simply phenomenal. It's worth the small price of admission, especially around draft time. Thanks to each for all their hard work.