With the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft approaching on July 17, we will continue taking looks at some potential draft prospects for the Royals at #9. I last wrote about Jace Jung, a bat first infielder with unorthodox swing mechanics. Today, we’ll take a look at another bat first guy, but this one a switch-hitter with more conventional mechanics: Jacob Berry.
Berry hails from Queen Creek, Arizona, a suburb in the southeast area of Phoenix. He was active on the showcase circuit in high school and was selected to Perfect Game preseason All-American teams three consecutive years. However, despite being the #3-ranked player in Arizona, he went undrafted in the shortened 2020 draft.
Berry began his collegiate career at the University of Arizona for the 2021 season. After going hitless in his first three games for the Wildcats, he put together a 3-3 effort in his fourth game and took off from there. Berry went on to rake throughout Pac-12 play, putting together hit streaks of 10 and 17 games throughout the season. He led the conference in extra-base hits and total bases, setting freshman school records in both categories. His performance earned him too many accolades to list here. Arizona hosted a regional and managed to reach the College World Series, but were eliminated following losses to Vanderbilt and Stanford. In eight tournament games, Berry hit .243/.293/.486 with two homers and ten strikeouts.
Berry finished the season hitting .352/.439/.676 with 19 doubles, five triples, 17 homers, 33 walks, and 58 strikeouts in 297 plate appearances. He finished fourth in the Pac-12 in OPS.
Prior to the 2022 season, Berry transferred to LSU as a draft-eligible sophomore. He picked up right where he left off, collecting a base hit in the first game of the season and crushing two homers in the second game.
Could Jacob Berry sneak his way into the 1.1 spot? He’s off to a great start!— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) February 19, 2022
He strung together six straight multi-hit games in early March and rattled off a 17 game hit streak not long after. Unfortunately, a broken finger late in the season forced him to miss LSU’s second to last series of the regular season, as well as the SEC tournament. He is expected to return to the lineup for LSU during the Hattiesburg Regional this weekend. Overall, he has hit .381/.474/.661 with eight doubles, 15 homers, 24 walks, and 19 strikeouts in 226 plate appearances. Though playing for LSU in the SEC is a much more difficult offensive environment than Arizona in the Pac, Berry has held his own, posting a slash line of .400/.496/.589 in conference play. His overall 1.134 OPS is the seventh highest in the SEC.
Despite entering the year with the possibility of going first overall, Berry has been surpassed by several other bats at both the prep and collegiate level. Here are some of his current rankings at the time of this writing:
- MLB.com: 7th
- Prospects Live: 22nd
- The Athletic ($): 23rd
- D1Baseball ($): 4th (only among college players)
- ESPN ($): 7th
Berry is a consensus first round talent, but whether he’s a top or bottom of the first round guy depends on who you ask. There’s little doubt the dude can hit. Here are some key metrics over his two years of college ball:
2021 at Arizona: .324 ISO, .391 BABIP, 11.1% BB, 19.5% K
2022 at LSU: .280 ISO, .363 BABIP, 10.6% BB, 8.4% K
His power declined a bit this season compared to last. On one hand, that makes sense given the move from a high offense environment in Tucson to playing at sea level in the SEC. On the other hand, it’s worth noting that it’s been a rather down year for pitching across the sport. What’s encouraging is he’s managed to raise his batting average by 29 points despite running a lower BABIP, and he’s maintained a solid walk rate while slashing his strikeouts by more than half. Scouts agree: he brings plus power from the plate with an excellent approach and strong hit tool.
The reason for some of the lower rankings is defense. In Arizona, he mostly played DH while starting nine games at third base. He’s played more in the field at LSU, drawing 35 starts at the hot corner, 14 in right field, and two in left. He has not been a plus defender at any of them. He likely won’t stick at third. Some scouts believe he could play in an outfield corner or first base, while others believe he’s a future DH.
Berry has drawn comps to J.J. Bleday, Andrew Vaughn, and Kyle Schwarber as solid college hitters with questionable defensive profiles. While he doesn’t have quite the raw power of the previous players I’ve covered, he likely has a better hit tool than either of them. If the Royals look to draft an advanced bat at #9, Berry might be the guy.
What do you think of Jacob Berry at #9?
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