To say the Baltimore Orioles have a wealth of young pitching prospects would be an understatement. In fact, five of the top six players on the Orioles' Top 20 Prospects list are pitchers.
Many are already household names, such as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Eduardo Rodriguez. Orioles fans are excited about the day they will get to see those three pitching in the team's rotation.
Tim Berry is much less known. Signed out of San Marcos (Calif.) High School with the Orioles' 50th-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the slender 6-foot-3, 180-pound lean left-hander has projectable ability as a starter or a reliever.
Berry was dominating enough in high school to pitch a 17-strikeout no-hitter in a competitive conference. That followed a six-inning one-hitter. He had Tommy John surgery as a senior, and that likely had an impact on him falling on Draft boards. He chose to sign with the Orioles instead of attending the University Of Oregon.
I was fortunate to scout Berry, the Orioles' No. 6 prospect, in this past year's Arizona Fall League. He played for the Surprise Saguaros and was a major contributor to his team's win in the Championship game last November. Getting outstanding Cubs prospect Kris Bryant to pop up with the bases loaded and then striking out Angels prospect C. J. Cron in that game may be among the highlights of his young career.
When I saw him last fall, Berry was throwing a mix of 92-93 mph fastball, a curveball that was in the 75-76 mph range, an occasional 76 mph slider and a very solid, frequently-used 82 mph changeup. What struck me was his ability to use any of those four quality pitches at any point in the count. He threw 14 2/3 innings, starting two of the seven games in which he appeared. He had a solid 1.84 ERA, striking out 14 and walking three. He finished with a 2-0 record and pitched to a WHIP of 0.86. It was a great fall season for Berry.
Berry earned his trip to Arizona after pitching at Class A Advanced Frederick in 2013. He threw 152 innings and finished with an ERA of 3.85 in 27 starts. He walked 40 and struck out 119. His low 2.4 walk rate per nine innings was the best of his career. He is on course to match that rate this season while pitching as a starter once again in Double-A.
Berry has a loose, clean delivery with few mechanical issues. He has a rather high leg kick and makes good use of his lower body in his delivery. He has a good feel on the mound, and his improved command and control of his pitches is allowing him the freedom to tinker more around the edges of the plate.
Using the lower half of the strike zone with regularity, he is inducing a nice share of ground balls. I particularly like the way Berry repeats his delivery and has similar arm speed, regardless of the pitch he is throwing. That makes his changeup even more effective.
Berry is extremely tough against left-handed hitters. Last season, lefties hit only .217 against him. Right-handed hitters get a better look at the ball and can time the movement on his breaking balls more accurately. They hit .285 against him last year.
Those splits are very telling. While he continues to pitch in the rotation for the Orioles at Double-A Bowie, I feel his best role might be as a situational lefty out of the bullpen. In addition to the depth of the Orioles organizational starting pitching, I have a concern about his former elbow surgery. Given his return to form after his Tommy John operation, it is likely health issues are a moot point. But it's still worth keeping in mind.
With former surgery as a backdrop, I feel it may be best to use him in limited innings to face left-handed hitters. He can likely shut them down. If stretched out enough though, he could also be used in long relief or as an outstanding candidate to make a spot start if needed.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less