Tonight marks the first All-Star appearance for righthander Jose Berrios, who made the American League squad in just his third season in the major leagues. He’s certainly deserving with his 3.68 ERA (14% above league average) and 3.78 FIP (10% above league average), which ranks 16th and 18th among qualified AL starters, respectively. If that’s not enough, he’s also 7th in innings pitched (127 1⁄3), 10th in batting average allowed (.212), and 15th in strikeout rate (24.9%).
Berrios was first drafted in 2012 in the supplemental round (32nd overall) by the Twins. Since debuting as a professional, he rocketed up the minor league ladder, eventually reaching the major leagues at 22 years old in 2016. However, that was his first taste of struggling as he had an 8.02 ERA over 14 starts. Finding the plate was a big problem as he walked over 12% of the batters he faced (MLB average that year was 8.2%) and even when he did find the plate, he allowed a .307 batting average. However, even stars like Roy Halladay needed to make some tweaks early in their career and Berrios’ changes made him into the pitcher he is today.
In the minor leagues, Berrios’ stuff was so good that he could throw his four pitches wherever he wanted and he could fool hitters. However, in the major leagues, hitters saw that he was constantly trying to get them to chase, so they let him throw ball one and two before jumping on him when he was forced to throw into the strike zone. Before the 2017 season, it was pointed out to Berrios that his stuff was so good that he could throw in the strike zone and still get hitters out, and he took that to heart. Instead of always trying to fool the batters, Berrios started attacking and became the pitcher he was expected to be.
Regarding that stuff, well, I’ll start you off with a very popular Berrios gif.
That sweeping curveball comes running in at around 82 MPH, which is very similar to Corey Kluber’s. While it’s about 2 MPH slower than Kluber’s breaking ball, Berrios also gets a couple more inches of vertical movement.
Part of why his curveball is so devastating is that Berrios is able to set it up with a 4-seam and a 2-seam fastball that sit at around 93 MPH. The 2-seamer averages around 10 inches of horizontal run, which coincidentally is also roughly how much movement Kluber gets on his 2-seamer.
Berrios mixes his two fastballs and his curveball evenly, using each about 30% apiece. He also has a change-up, but the other three pitches are by far his best and he’ll very likely put them on display tonight.
Considering that he’s only 24 years old and just in his third season, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Berrios yet. As he gets older, I could see him embracing the role as the ace for the Twins staff, becoming a #1 pitcher that the team has sorely lacked since the days of Johan Santana.