Does the Marlins’ selection of Jacob Berry already look like a mistake?
With the 6th pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the Miami Marlins had the chance to take players like Brooks Lee, Kevin Parada, Gavin Cross, Jace Jung and Zach Neto. Instead, they picked Jacob Berry out of LSU, a talented prospect in his own right, but with several clear flaws and limitations.
At the end of their first professional season, several of the names mentioned above reached the Double-A level, while Berry remained in the background at Low-A. And it’s not like the former college star put on any special numbers against this easy competition.
Two months before the draft, the question I’m already asking myself is this: have the Marlins sniffed out the selection of Jacob Berry?
During the 2022 NCAA season with the LSU Tigers, Berry showed he could be an incredible hitter (.370/.464/.630/1.094, 15 HR, 48 RBI in 53 G). His production was almost identical to what he had done the previous year at the University of Arizona. Someone with that record while playing in power conferences who also has the ability to switch shots seemed like a “safe” choice for the Marlins.
While Berry’s offensive potential was undeniable, it was clear during the draft process that defense would be a problem in the pros. At LSU, played 39 games at third base, two games at left field and 14 games at right field. Some guys have real defensive versatility, but in Berry’s case, he was positionless, moving just to make room for his teammates. On the 20-80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline rated him as a Grade 40 outfielder and a Grade 50 pitcher.
“So much depends on your offensive skills,” MLB draft analyst Mason McRae said of Berry. Monday’s episode by Fish Stripes LIVE. “It’s so hard to bet on that, when you can get the same value 30 picks later.”
Berry had a .264/.358/.392/.750 slant line with the Jupiter Hammerheads. He played all of his defensive innings in the third and started the rest of his games as a DH. Pipeline projects it into the big leagues in 2025.
Berry’s choice would have been a little easier to understand if he had tremendous power to go along with his good striking tool. At Jupiter, he had just three homers in 148 plate appearances without balls hit beyond 386 feet, according to Stacast.
Let’s take a look at some of the other first-round options the Marlins ignored when taking Berry.
Brooks Lee (8th pick, Minnesota Twins)
Many of us Fish Stripes staffers were dying for the Marlins to take over Brooks Lee 6th overall. His college numbers were very similar to Berry’s and he did it playing shortstop every day. While there’s no guarantee Lee will stay at shortstop forever, the Marlins need more minor league depth at this position.
Lee was promoted to AA at the very end of the season after cutting .289/.395/.454/.848 with 4 HR and 12 RBI at High-A. He is expected to join the Twins by 2024, according to Pipeline (a year earlier than Berry). So far, Lee seems to be developing faster than Berry and he has the advantage of being a more valuable all-rounder.
Kevin Parada (11th pick, New York Mets)
The top receiver in the draft was Kevin Parada. Parada’s 2022 season at Georgia Tech was out of this world (.361/.453/.709/1.162, 26 HR, 88 RBI). He’s not the best behind the plate, but when you know a guy has the power that Parada has shown, it’s worth the risk to take him and trust that he’ll make the necessary adjustments on the defensive end. . In the worst case, it can switch to an easier position on the road.
I would have chosen Parada over Jacob Berry. In a small 10-game sample at Low-A, Parada was limited to one homer, but cut .276/.463/.414/.877.
Jace Jung (12th pick, Detroit Tigers)
One of my personal favorite prospects in the draft was Jace Jung. He has the punching tool, the power and the defensive versatility. I’m more confident in his power potential than Berry’s.
The Tigers assigned Jung directly to the High-A affiliate. Aside from an 18.7 percent walk rate, his plate performance was mediocre (.232/.373/.333/.706, 1 HR, 13 RBI). They played him at second base, where he made just one error in 27 starts.
There’s still time for Jacob Berry to make us feel differently about his selection, but it wasn’t the best first impression when considering who the alternatives were. The Marlins are counting on him to be a mid-range bat on the fast track to the majors.
Marlins director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik is counting heavily on Berry’s success. Fellow first-rounders JJ Bleday (2019) and Kahlil Watson (2021) have struggled as pros. For a franchise with a tight budget that doesn’t usually make a big splash in free agency, Svihlik needs to spend his draft bonus pool wisely or the offense will continue to be a weakness for the big league club.