Apologies in advance if you see this and think it's too early to be talking about an 18-year-old with 11 pro games under his belt. After watching last night's game, all I could fathom writing about in regards to the Major League club was Liam Hendriks, and I talked about him last week. So yes, it's early to be getting too excited about numbers from this year's draft class. However, what Jose Orlando Berrios has done since being selected 32nd overall by the Twins is pretty incredible.Berrios has allowed four runs in 30.2 innings of work between the Gulf Coast League Twins and the Elizabethton Twins. He's picked up 49 strikeouts against just four walks, and has actually been better in the K:BB department since being promoted from the GCL to the Appalachian League.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has taken notice of Berrios' scorching start by including him on a recent list of ten 2012 top draftees who have significantly upped their stock (subscription required and highly recommended for those who enjoy following Minor Leaguers). Goldstein wrote this prior to Berrios' most recent start:
The best player in Puerto Rico this spring, Berrios impressed scouts all along with his stuff, especially his fastball which sits in the low-to-mid 90s and has touched 98. The fact that he's throwing hard as a pro doesn't shock anyone, but he's also been mixing in a plus slider as a pro while also showing outstanding location. In his first ten games, split between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues, Berrios has put up PlayStation numbers, including a 0.70 ERA and 43 strikeouts against just four hits in 25 2/3 innings. For a system that focuses far more on command and control than overpowering stuff, Berrios has the potential to give the Twins system both.
Firstly, I'll assume Goldstein meant best "pitcher," as No. 1 overall selection Carlos Correa was also a native of Puerto Rico. Secondly, Berrios did appear mortal in the start he's made since that writing. He allowed two runs in five innings including his first professional home run allowed. He managed another six punchouts without issuing a walk, however, and allowed only five total hits.
It's early on but it's nice to see that Berrios is doing this against competition his own age. He's not a college pitcher dominating low-level hitters like Madison Boer did in his Elizabethton debut last season. Beyond that, having already touched 98 mph and flashed a plus breaking pitch is encouraging. Berrios is a long ways off, and there will be plenty of "can't wait until he has Tommy John" jokes (deservedly so), but it's hard to imagine he'd have slipped to No. 32 in the draft if teams knew this would be the outcome of his first 11 professional games.
I looked at what some of the major scouting/talent evaluators around the Internet had to say about Berrios and fellow supplemental rounder Luke Bard shortly after the draft. In that piece, I noted that there were some who had questions about J.O.'s small frame (he's just six feet tall). Baseball America's Jim Shonerd recently addressed Berrios' size in his prospect chat, stating that he wouldn't worry about the size and that he can see Berrios' ceiling being that of a No. 2 starter.
Also of note is a recent John Sickels report on Berrios that TwinkieTown commenter clutterheart noted in a recent FanShot. Sickels delivers equally high praise for Berrios, stating that he has the potential to go down as one of the best pitchers in the 2012 draft class.
There's obviously time for Berrios to improve upon or submarine that projection, but for the time being it looks like Terry Ryan, Mike Radcliff and friends did well to identify Berrios as a hard-throwing 18-year-old who was being overlooked by other teams. They drafted him higher than many projections had him being selected, but the early returns have justified the reach.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve