As a late-round pick, more often than not, players get lost in the minors and never see the big leagues. With so many exciting prospects around them on a daily basis, along with the grind of playing everyday and traveling non-stop, it’s a long road for a teenager who is chasing his major-league dreams.
But for Royals prospect Jake Newberry, the minor-league grind was something that he embraced from day one. Newberry was a 37th round pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft by the Kansas City Royals, signing just days after the selection. He made his big-league debut last August for the Royals, appearing in 14 games. He went 2-0 with a 4.73 ERA in a short stint in the majors, striking out 11 in 13.1 innings pitched.
Rise to the bigs
His journey to the big leagues is a very remarkable one considering he barely pitched before his senior year at Mira Mesa high school in the suburbs of San Diego, California.
“In my senior year, everything was hitting,” Newberry said. “I did lessons once or twice a week before games and it paid off, I hit something like .350 that year. So for me, I felt like that was enough to get into colleges to hit. But on the mound, I was 7-1 with an ERA around one.”
It wasn’t until one big game against a rival school at Petco Park where Newberry first caught the eye of scouts with his ability to bring it on the mound.
“So the guy that was pitching for them, there were scouts there to watch him,” said Newberry. “I ended up going toe for toe with him and that was the first time I was seen by a scout. I think I gave up one unearned run and struck out 13 in seven innings, so after the game, a couple of teams came up to my dad and gave him some paperwork for me to fill out.”
Newberry was sitting 88-90 mph in that game, touching 91 and 92 several times.A former 37th-round draft pick, @Royals prospect Jake Newberry talks to @quinnallen23 about his inspiring rise to the major leagues.Click To Tweet
A couple of weeks later, one of those scouts came to watch Newberry pitch again, then came and visited his home right after to see where his head was at as far as college or the draft.
“I was barely being recruited by colleges, so the draft wasn’t even a thought in my mind until that day I pitched at Petco and got some attention,” stated Newberry.
“I told him if I had the chance I would definitely sign because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I also didn’t have any notable college offers,” he said.
Come draft day, Newberry was keeping his eye on the MLB draft tracker while in class, hoping for his name to be called. The K.C. scout called and asked him if he’d sign if the Royals picked him, and he said absolutely. Things lined up perfectly, and Kansas City snagged him in the 37th round. As a 17-year-old, Newberry began his professional career.
The rest is history. The now 24-year-old has had a remarkable minor-league career, posting a 3.24 ERA across six minor-league seasons. He’s gone 26-13 in that span, collecting 42 saves in the process. Health has been a huge part of Newberry’s consistent rise each year. The righty has basically moved up a level almost every season through the Royals system, a rare thing to see with a guy who was drafted in the late rounds. He hasn’t dealt with any serious injuries and has always been available to pitch.
Consistency each year
Last year between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Newberry posted impressive numbers. He tossed 49.2 innings, ending with a solid 1.63 ERA. He was also 15-for-16 in save opportunities while striking out 53 hitters in the process. A big reason he got a cup of coffee in the big leagues last year was because he posted a 0.90 ERA in 16 innings pitched in Triple-A, forcing Kansas City’s hand to make him a late-season season call-up.
He’s seen his fastball velocity consistently rise over the years since he got drafted, now sitting at 92-94, touching the upper 90s when he rears back.
Newberry has never been on any top prospect lists. He’s just always pitched well on a consistent basis and been a guy who his managers could rely on in the late innings.
Health has been important for Newberry’s development, but there is one component he has that has taken him to where he is today.
“I think it’s just the bulldog mentality I try to pitch with every time I take the mound. I knew if I just got the opportunity and the proper coaching I knew I would be able to move up through the minors,” he said. “I have always been very committed to working out, throwing, trying to get better each and every day, so once I got the chance to play pro ball, I had no doubts I would eventually make the big leagues.”
Confidence is an extremely important key for any athlete, especially for a pitcher. If you have a bad outing, you have to bounce back next appearance and redeem yourself. Newberry has all the belief in himself and it’s taken him all the way to the big leagues. Although he didn’t make the major league club out of spring training, he could very well see a call-up at some point in 2019. He’s currently in Triple-A Omaha.
“I just gotta do my best,” Newberry said. “Obviously, my goal is the big leagues, but all I can do is compete and give them no other option than to call me up because I’m the one that’s standing out.”