When the Orioles invested a 6th round pick in Jason Berken this past June, they knew they were getting a kid with strong makeup. Though he missed his junior season at Clemson University after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the coaches still made him a team captain because of his strong leadership qualities. When he came back as a legitimate staff ace for his red shirt junior season, his coaches continued to rave about the work ethic that allowed him to overcome what, for many, is a huge obstacle. Berken continued to get stronger as the season wore on, posting even better numbers in his professional debut than he did in his final NCAA season.
DOB: 11/27/83 Height: 6-0 Weight: 175 B/T: R/R
Jason Berken‘s age 22 season:
Not surprisingly, Berken did very well in his pro debut. His pitchability and four-pitch arsenal left New-York Penn batters baffled, as he racked up extremely impressive statistics. Berken works off of a fastball that was in the 88-92 MPH range for most of his Aberdeen season, though it touched 94 MPH in the spring. It has good boring action and, obviously, his command of it was nearly unparalleled in the Orioles' system.
Berken also has a wide assortment of off-speed pitches, the best of which varies depending on who you talk to. He always through a slurvy breaking ball in college, but he decided to revamp his breaking pitches during rehabilitation in 2005. Now, Berken offers a hard slider and a truer curveball, both of which are quality offerings. He also has a quality changeup that helped him hold lefties to a .155/.194/.241 batting line at Aberdeen.
Jason Berken has proven that he has the makeup and pitchability of a premier prospect, but scouts wonder if his current stuff will be enough to overcome his current slot in the age-spectrum an earn him a major league rotation slot. Luckily, Tommy John survivors have a strong track record of taking a major step forward in their second year back. If Berken is able to maintain low-90's velocity more consistently in 2007, he will more easily profile as a mid-rotation starter. The Orioles are already impressed enough that he will likely skip over low-A Delmarva and spend his first full professional season in high-A Frederick's rotation, where his strong groundball tendencies will help him keep the ball in the park. Despite entering his age 23 season, Berken's workload will be monitored closely in 2007, but 2008 could be a major coming out party.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com