The Road to The Show™: Marlins’ Berry
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at third-ranked Marlins prospect Jacob Berry. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. In his first professional action, the game hasn’t come
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at third-ranked Marlins prospect Jacob Berry. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
In his first professional action, the game hasn’t come as easy for Jacob Berry as it did in college.
Berry dominated two of the NCAA’s best conferences with the University of Arizona and LSU before being selected by the Marlins last year as a Draft-eligible sophomore. His first 65 games in the Minors haven’t been a reflection of his college years, but after returning from a finger sprain that sidelined him for two weeks, Berry is starting to look more comfortable at the plate for High-A Beloit. MLB Pipeline’s No. 69 overall prospect homered in his first game back on May 12 and has since tallied four extra-base hits and six RBIs in nine games.
Before being sidelined, Berry was batting .161 with strikeouts in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances, but he’s cut that whiff rate nearly in half and is playing more toward the profile he built as an amateur. The 22-year-old had an impressive 15 percent strikeout rate over two seasons of college ball, but took it to a new level after transferring his sophomore season, striking out a total of 22 times in 248 trips to the plate.
“I want to be the best hitter I can be when I'm in the box,” Berry told MLB.com last year after the Draft. “I wanted to grow as a player and as an individual [after my freshman year], and [limiting my strikeouts] was a big emphasis on me becoming a more well-rounded hitter this year. … There's always a chance of getting on if you put the ball in play, but if you strike out, you're walking back to the dugout.”
Berry grew up in northern Arizona and attended Queen Creek High School in Cortez, about 40 miles southeast of Chase Field in Phoenix. He developed his game under the tutelage of his father, Perry, a University of Louisiana-Lafayette standout and fourth-round pick of the Astros who spent four years in the Minors.
The younger Berry was committed to the University of Arizona and coach Jay Johnson before his senior season at Queen Creek was all but wiped out by the pandemic. He earned National Freshman of the Year honors in his lone season with the Wildcats in 2021 and was a consensus All-American. Berry led the Pac-12 in RBIs (70), triples (five), total bases (167) and extra-base hits (41) and set school freshman records in hits (87), RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits. Overall, he batted .352 with a 1.115 OPS and 17 homers in 63 games.
When Johnson left Arizona to take over the program at LSU, Berry followed and compiled a .370/.464/.630 slash line with more walks (27) than strikeouts in one of the best conferences in the country. He finished with 15 homers, 48 RBIs and 47 runs scored.
After playing just nine games in the field, all at third base, during his freshman year, he played 39 games at the hot corner for LSU and started to get some work in the outfield. His defensive future was his biggest question mark coming into the Draft and remains to be determined.
Gapper!— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) April 8, 2023
Jacob Berry, the @Marlins' No. 2 prospect and MLB's No. 58, triples in a run for his first hit with the High-A @beloitskycarp. pic.twitter.com/Aaos0jThZe
The Marlins landed Berry with the No. 6 overall pick, and the two sides agreed to a near-slot deal of $6 million deal the following week. He reported to the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and played in four games before advancing to Single-A Jupiter. In 33 games with the Hammerheads, he batted .264 with a .750 OPS, three homers, 24 RBIs and a 15.5 percent strikeout rate.
Although he had limited opportunities against southpaws (35 plate appearances), the switch-hitting Berry was better from the right side, batting .345 with an .877 OPS.
The Marlins gave the 6-foot, 212-pound slugger an opportunity against advanced competition this spring -- he went hitless in nine at-bats in the Grapefruit League -- before reporting to Beloit.
Overall, his production isn’t where he’d like it to be at this point in the season. Although things are getting better since his return from the injury -- .235/.278/.412 -- he remains below the Mendoza line (.183) with a .540 OPS in 28 total games for the Sky Carp.
Slow as they might be, things are trending in the right direction, and he has the track record and bat-to-ball skills to make a breakout seem inevitable.
“I'm a good hitter, and I really believe in my ability and the work that I put in,” Berry said, describing his step forward before the Draft last year. “I can trust my ability. I just let that take over this year. That was the biggest thing for me this year with growth as a player.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.