Berry has been falling in recent mock drafts. Could he fall to the Detroit Tigers at 12?
LSU’s Jacob Berry has been in the conversation for 1:1 in the past. His bat was seen as too good to pass up. However, recent concerns about his defense and lack of athleticism have him slipping in mock drafts, even falling all the way to 10th overall to the Colorado Rockies in a recent mock draft from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis. The Detroit Tigers, of course, pick 12th overall.
Teams are worried that Berry could end up being a first baseman long term, which would decrease his value. But could his value sink enough for him to fall outside the top 10?
Berry attended Queens Creek High School in Arizona before heading to the University of Arizona to play for the Wildcats. He was an instant star, slashing .352/.439/.676 with 17 home runs his freshman year. He earned multiple All-American honors, including First-Team All-American and Freshman All-American.
Berry primarily played DH for Arizona, but also played nine games at third base. He had three errors in those nine games, however.
After Wildcats’ Head Coach Jay Johnson left for LSU, Berry decided to enter the transfer portal and join him. In 2022, he’s had another outstanding year at the plate, slashing .370/.464/.630 with 15 homers. He’s also significantly cut down on the strikeouts, walking more than he struck out this season.
Here’s what MLB Pipeline has to say about Berry as a hitter:
"“Equally productive from both sides of the plate, Berry has drawn some comparisons to a switch-hitting version of Andrew Vaughn (the No. 3 choice in 2019) for his ability to hit for power and average while controlling the strike zone. He hammers fastballs and handles breaking balls and changeups well. He has a quality swing and approach from both sides, makes repeated hard contact and shows a propensity for driving the ball in the air.”"
The Andrew Vaughn comparisons seem pretty spot on given that Vaughn also had questions about his defense coming out of college in 2019. He’s been developing quite nicely for the Chicago White Sox, and since Berry is a switch-hitter, the hope is that he could be even better.
Berry has virtually no weaknesses as a hitter at this point, which is why he’s gotten 1:1 buzz. He drives the ball from both sides of the plate, reads offspeed pitches well, and has great plate discipline. He struck out quite a bit as a freshman at Arizona, but as mentioned earlier, he’s trimmed those down considerably.
Here’s part of Fangraphs’ scouting report on Berry:
"“Berry has plus bat speed and raw power, with an uppercut bat path from both sides of the plate. His barrel can drag into the zone at times, leaving him late on velocity on the outer third, but Berry can punish everything on the inner half of the plate with power.”"
Fangraphs aren’t quite as high on Berry as others, but when you watch Berry on tape, a lot of this rings true. He absolutely destroys anything on the inner half. He can turn and burn with authority. But he does have a tendency to let the ball travel too much on the outer part of the plate. But that’s a minor criticism. He’s still the best raw hitting prospect in this draft.
All of Berry’s concerns come on the defensive side of the ball. Where will he play in the pros? Many scouts are worried that he’ll be relegated to first base due to his lack of athleticism.
Here’s what Pipeline has to say:
"“(Berry) has below-average speed and average arm strength and he’s rigid at the hot corner, so most scouts believe he’ll have to move elsewhere as a pro. He has looked decent in a brief look in right field but there’s a good chance that he winds up at first base — where he’ll have no problem fitting the offensive profile.”"
The fact that he could go the Andrew Vaughn route of playing the outfield is encouraging, but whoever drafts him will have to put him out there more to get a larger sample size.
First baseman aren’t exactly coveted at the top of the draft, unless they’re a potential generational hitting talent like Spencer Torkelson was a couple years ago. Vaughn had similar concerns, yet the White Sox still felt comfortable enough to take him third overall in 2019. He has a wRC+ of 134 so far in 2022, so it’s safe to say the Sox are happy with their selection to this point.
Fit with Detroit Tigers
Even with the concerns about his glove, Berry would be a tremendous addition to the Detroit Tigers’ farm system. His ability to drive the ball consistently from both sides of the plate is something the organization desperately needs. Even if he ends up having to be a DH in the big leagues, Miguel Cabrera is likely retiring after the 2023 season, so that would open up that spot on the Tigers’ roster.
The question, of course, is whether he will fall that far in the draft. Even though he has been falling in mock drafts, it still seems highly unlikely that he falls out of the top 10, let alone all the way to 12. If there were more healthy college arms, there would be a better shot. But as it stands, it will probably take a miracle for the Detroit Tigers to land Jacob Berry.