This week I am writing about a player that has Minnesota Twins fans excited and energized in terms of future talent that they will get to see at Target Field. That player is Jose Berrios, who in my eyes is currently one of the top three starting pitching prospects in the Twins organization. While many are excited about the futures of Alex Meyer and Trevor May including myself, I feel that there is also extreme promise in Berrios becoming a significant piece of the Twins starting rotation in the near future and that will be the topic of this article.
Meyer and May have been covered extensively and both are excellent starting pitching prospects but this week I wanted to go in depth about the player who is currently the number five overall Minnesota Twins prospect and that is none other than Jose Berrios. Now fans may think that there is no room for Berrios in the near future with Meyer and May getting their chances first, including May already being called up from Rochester (AAA) and getting his chance to start the home opener against the Royals at Target Field. With most figuring that Meyer will be the next in line to get the call, readers may see this and figure where Berrios fits in the near future.
Before the start of the 2015 season, that argument may had held water but after looking at recent events including the Ervin Santana suspension and the unknown long term status of Ricky Nolasco's arm after this latest injury, I think there are now some opportunities that are going to open up for some of the young Twins pitching talents to take. This is where I think Berrios has a chance to grab and hold onto one of these opportunities, given a chance by the Twins front offfice.
Currently, they have filled the two spots in question by sliding Mike Pelfrey from the bullpen to a starting role and calling up Trevor May, which I mentioned above. While I think giving May a chance was definitely the right move, especially with Alex Meyer still showing control issues in Rochester, I think Pelfrey is nothing more than a stopgap measure and for a long term solution will not be that answer. I think that sets up a contest for one of these five starting spots between Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios for the next promotion from the minors and here's why I think Jose Berrios should be this guy.
I can and will back up the argument for Berrios using numbers and will do so in a moment but I think it's more then just numbers when you talk about a MLB starting pitcher. Yes they do have to be successful physically in terms of putting up the numbers but I think a starting pitcher gets that physical success by also being mentally strong. I think this is where Berrios excels and this will help make him a very good player in the MLB. This is a player that on his own put himself through amazing workouts in the offseason that went viral on social media, has been a player that has always been positive every time he has been told to wait your turn, and has continued to dominate at every level while waiting for that turn. Many players refuse to have this mental mindset and think that should just get a promotion from year to year, while every time Berrios gets told to wait it just seems to make him work yet harder and harder. We should home for this kind of internal drive from every prospect.
I've covered enough of Berrios from the mental aspect so now lets get into the numbers. Berrios started pitching in the Twins organization in 2012 and in three starts was 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA. What I liked most about those three starts was the 49/4 strikeout to walk ratio, which showed the promise. In 2013, Berrios pitched a full season with the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Low A) and with the improved hitters at that level, his numbers dropped somewhat but the talent was still evident as he went 7-7 with a 3.99 ERA and a 100/40 strikeout/walk ratio. Some were worried about the control and that point but I think it was Berrios getting used to better talent from the hitter standpoint and his 2014 numbers show that he elevated his game to match or better that talent.
In 2014, Berrios pitched between the Fort Myers Miracle (High A), the New Britain Rock Cats (AA), and the Rochester Red Wings (AAA) and put up numbers that showed everyone why he needs to be one of the next pitchers from the minor league system to get the opportunity to pitch at Target Field. Berrios went 12-8 with a 2.76 ERA in 25 starts but what I like most is that the strikeout to walk ratio improved from 2013 as Berrios has 140 strikeouts to 38 walks, a sizable increase from 2013. With Berrios pitching 140 innings in 2014, he was getting a strikeout per inning or 9 per nine innings pitched. This is the type of arm the Twins desperately need in their starting rotation as they don't have many guys that can go out and just blow away hitters or get that out to get out of an inning without the hitter touching the baseball. Berrios is that type of pitcher.
Berrios looks to be continuing that trend for 2015 with the Chattanooga Lookouts if his first start is any indication. Berrios looked to be in full command in his first start of the season on Friday, striking out 11 batters in a 6-2 win for the Lookouts. Berrios pitched 6 1/3 innings and with the 11 strikeouts, only allowed one run, and just one walk. If Berrios continues to look like this and the player that I think he can and will be, The Twins front office is going to start to have to look long and hard at themselves about continuing to slowly progress with Berrios and look to think about Jose becoming the answer to filling some of those holes in the pitching rotation for the long term.