The Minnesota Twins’ Jose Berrios is the real deal
In recent seasons, sitting on a hotbed of farm talent that has been one of the envies of the league, the Minnesota Twins have often been criticized for handling their vaunted farm system with kid gloves. In reality this amounts to the organization not wanting to rush or over-expose highly talented prospects. Nevertheless the Twins brass has drawn the ire of a fan base who, prior to the 2015 season, had endured four consecutive years of at least 90 losses and has been impatient for success. Prospects like Aaron Hicks seemed to not be ready when their name was called, others, such as alien long ball machine Miguel Sano, look as though they could have debuted as hormonal pre-teens. At every level in his young career thus far; Jose Berrios has looked like he was exactly where he was supposed to be.
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Selected by the Twins as the 32nd pick (first of the supplemental first round) in the same draft that brought you Byron Buxton, Berrios had a number of detractors right out of the gate. Many of Berrios’ critics focused on his limited stature (6’0, 185lbs) and a flat fastball they feared would be dominated even by hitters in the upper minor league levels. As everyone is continually learning, the stupidest thing you can do to Berrios, is doubt him.
Berrios has gone from being unranked on every major prospect list, to being featured in them all. Prior to the 2015 season he was ranked 36th overall by Baseball America, 32nd by MLB.com, and 48th by Baseball Prospectus. I say ‘prior’ to 2015, because his fourth professional season was a remarkable one. In advance of 2015 Berrios boldly declared his two primary goals for the forthcoming season, to break camp with the Twins, and to win rookie of the year. It would be easy for such an admission to be perceived as haughty and self-serving. Berrios never comes across this way however, always praising teammates, family, friends, and God, for his impressive accomplishments.
In 2015 he began the season at AA Chattanooga on one of the most loaded minor league teams in recently memory. In 90 innings he put together a 2.62 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, 9.1 SO/9, WHIP of 1.114 with a mid-90s fastball, excellent sinking changeup, and an improving slurvy breaking ball. Berrios was promoted to AAA Rochester and was lit up in his first two outings, surrendering 9 ER in 10.2 early innings. Following his first two starts, he did what Berrios always seems to do when moving up a level, he began making adjustments. The rest of the way at AAA Berrios gave up 14 ER in 65 innings, finishing AAA with a better ERA, WHIP, BB/9 and K/9 then he put together at AA. Therein lies the beauty of Berrios, not only is he supremely talented, humble, and passionate about the game, he WILL outwork you.
In addition to putting together baseball camps for at-risk youth in his native Puerto Rico this off-season with close friends Franciso Lindor and Javier Baez, Berrios frequently tweets information about his grueling off-season regimen. While you and I are enjoying weekly happy hours and commiserating over Blair Walsh’s addition to the ever-growing book of grudges that is Vikings playoff history, Berrios is busy doing this.
Berrios has been invited to Spring Training and will no doubt impress again for a young Twins team. While he may not break camp with the team (Minnesota will gain another year of team control by keeping him in the minors a few weeks) he should see the friendly confines of Target Field sooner rather than later.
Don’t limit yourself to thoughts that Berrios is the fringy number 2 many pundits would have you believe. This man is determined to work himself to greatness, and if the indicators we have seen until now are anything to go by, he’s a hero that combines the levels of talent, humility and work ethic that Twins fans should be able to hang their hats on for seasons to come.