Berrios, who turns 23 later this month, has been one of the game’s more highly touted young arms for the past few years. Prior to the 2016 season, both Baseball Prospectus and MLB Pipeline ranked him in the top 20 of their overall prospect lists at #17 and #19, respectively.
The righty made his major league debut in April of last year, naturally to great interest. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire – far from it, in fact. Berrios coughed up five runs in four innings during his first outing, and things didn’t improve much from there. In 58.1 frames over 14 starts, he sputtered to a 8.02 ERA, 1.87 WHIP and 1.40 K/BB ratio.
While it certainly wasn’t the fast start the Twins may have been hoping for, it was hard to get too down on the youngster who was still just 22 years old at the time. To his credit, Berrios didn’t carry his big league struggles into the minors, as he posted a 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 3.47 K/BB in 111.1 innings for Triple-A Rochester last year.
Berrios failed to win a rotation spot out of spring training, but has continued dealing at Triple-A. He’s worked a sparkling 1.13 ERA and 0.81 WHIP over 39.2 frames, averaging 8.8 strikeouts and 1.8 walks per nine. The questions were indeed getting louder concerning when he would get his next shot with the Twins.
The answer, as it turns out, is Saturday afternoon against the division rival Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Although still not good by any measure, Berrios was markedly better on the road than at home last season, with a 6.75 ERA vs. 9.89 ERA. Obviously, Minnesota is expecting him to be a better pitcher all-around in his second foray into the major leagues.
The Twins and Indians are currently tied atop the AL Central, with the Tigers and White Sox close behind. Even the struggling Royals are not too far out yet at 5.5 games back. If Berrios lives up to his talent level and holds on to a rotation spot, he could give his club a boost in a tight race.
Twins starters own a 3.99 ERA as a unit, good for ninth in MLB. The rotation has been spearheaded by the sensational performance of veteran of Ervin Santana – sans his last outing. Lefty Hector Santiago, who has served as a mentor to Berrios, is also doing well with a 2.76 ERA in seven starts.
The rest of the staff contains several uncertainties. Phil Hughes continues to falter, posting a 4.74 ERA through his first seven outings. Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia were sent down to Triple-A after uninspiring displays. Nick Tepesch is currently getting a look in the rotation.
That leaves a spot open for Berrios, and a big opportunity to stick with the Twins for good this time.