Jose Berrios is Evolving Into the Ace the Twins Need to Contend

The Minnesota Twins are one of the more under-the-radar ballclubs in baseball. With a young and improved lineup, as well as a reliable starting rotation, manager Paul Molitor has a playoff-caliber roster. And 23-year-old righty Jose Berrios is evolving into the ace Minnesota needs to contend in the American League.

The Twins have started off 2018 on a positive note after making a 26-game jump in the standings last season. They’re on top of the American League Central at 7-4 and playing like a legitimate playoff threat; Berrios is a big part of their early success.

In the three starts he’s made this season, Berrios has dazzled the Twins’ faithful. Recording 24 strikeouts, as well as a 2.18 ERA and 0.63 WHIP while surrendering just one walk, the righty has been an overpowering presence on the rubber. His curveball has been near-unhittable, and he is pitching deep into games. The righty threw a complete game shutout on the road against a formidable Baltimore Orioles lineup and struckout 11 in seven scoreless innings on the hill versus the Chicago White Sox Thursday night. Berrios is hitting his spots more this year than he did in 2017 and is pitching with a swagger; the improvements are noticeable both in the eye test and the box score.

Berrios started 25 games in 2017 and in those outings recorded 139 strikeouts, as well as a 3.89 ERA, which, considering it was his first year starting on a consistent basis, is impressive. At the same time, he put runners on base often, posting a 1.23 WHIP, and didn’t dominate; Berrios was certainly reliable, but he didn’t pitch at a Cy Young Award level. And his 2017 season ended on a sour note when he surrendered three runs in three innings of relief in the Twins’ Wild Card loss to the New York Yankees. Luckily for Minnesota, they’re a better team this season and getting an improved, formidable Berrios.

Berrios is in a Twins’ rotation that includes many proven commodities. With Lance Lynn, Jake Odorizzi, and Kyle Gibson, they have a deep starting rotation, but don’t, on paper, have a bonafide ace. At the moment, Berrios is pitching at a high level and like the ace the Twins need. And, when Ervin Santana returns from his finger injury, that pitching staff will only get deeper. Being complemented by one of the best lineups in the game has and will continue to do wonders for that staff too.

The Minnesota @Twins need a true ace to contend in a tough American League, and young right-hander @JOLaMaKina is becoming exactly that.Click To Tweet

With a batting order featuring the likes of Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Byron Buxton among others, Molitor and the Twins have a number of electric bats to help provide run support for Berrios and friends on the mound.

Berrios’ rise to stardom is very similar to that of Yankees’ righty Luis Severino. Severino wasn’t much of a presence on the hill early on in his career but was finally given the chance to start for a full season in 2017, took the hill with confidence, and is now one of the best pitchers in the game. If he continues to trend in the right direction, Berrios can be the Twins’ version of Severino and a Cy Young candidate in the foreseeable future.

The Twins are, for the moment, holding onto first place in the AL Central. Now, will that lead last for the next five and a half months with the Cleveland Indians right behind them? Possibly, but it’s not a certainty. But to hold off the Tribe or win the AL Wild Card Game, the Twins need someone who can take the hill in a big game. Santana disappointed last season versus the Yankees, lasting just two innings and giving up two home runs. And while the Twins do need the veteran to bounce back from injury and his postseason blunder, Berrios is proving to be the more equipped arm for the big game.

For the meantime, Berrios appears to be just what the Twins need — an ace.

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