Berti Has Come Out Hitting

Second base may be a position that the Blue Jays need to address at the major league level this off season as the club must decide whether or not to pick up the remaining option years on Aaron Hill's contract. The team isn't exactly over-burdened with a plethora of prospective second basemen in the minor leagues.

None of the club's top three affiliates boast a legitimate candidate unless you're including Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. The free agent signee could be shifted across the diamond but still has a long way to go with the bat, hitting just .228 with Double-A New Hampshire this year.

That dearth of talent on the middle infield may in part be why the Jays selected nine middle infielders in the 2011 draft. So far, in the short two-month period since the draft, the most promising of those picks has been Jon Berti.

Selected in the 18th round out of Bowling Green, the 21-year-old from Troy, Michigan has found a home atop the order of the class A short-season Vancouver Canadians.

The five-foot-10 Berti is hitting .331 through is first 37 games with 17 RBI and an .848 OPS. He's also racked up 16 steals while batting primarily in the leadoff spot.

"He's a grinder, he's a battler, he plays hard," said Canadians hitting coach Dave Pano, who had all of three days to work with and get to know Berti during a mini-camp prior to the start of the season.

Berti, a junior in college, came straight from Bowling Green where he hit .423 in his final year.

"The bat is where I figured it is," said Pano, noting the team hasn't done anything to adjust his swing so far in his young pro career. He also made the distinction between adjusting swing mechanics and an approach at the plate, something that has been worked on.

"He's very instinctive for his age. We haven't done anything with it [swing] yet, but we have talked about it. One thing we have worked on is his approach and preparation and what he wants to do."

Pano also credits the speedster's legs with getting padding his hit total, something he'll have to stick with to succeed.

"He can really run. When he utilizes his speed to the best of his ability, he gets a lot of infield hits and things like that. He's going to put the ball in play and make the defense make some plays."

Berti himself is just relishing the new environment, refusing to place expectations on himself despite his lofty numbers.

"It's not that I really expected [lofty numbers] it or didn't," said Berti. "It's about coming to the park every day and figuring this level out."

He's taken Pano's approach advice to heart, identifying what doesn't work for him.

"I've worked hard at trying to stay more relaxed at the plate and stay through the middle. When I try to pull it a little more that's when I get in trouble."

One advantage Berti does have is that he has some experience playing with wooden bats. While Bowling Green plays in an aluminum bat conference, Berti played summertime baseball for the Brewster Whitecaps in the prestigious Cape Cod League, an all-wood bat league.

"There's a bit of a difference but I have some experience with the wood bats," said Berti, whose father Tom played two years in the Detroit Tigers organization, never reaching the major leagues.

While he seems to have the offense figured out, Berti's defense still needs refining. Drafted as a second baseman even though he played mostly shortstop in college, Berti has committed only three errors thus far. The team's pitchers routinely rave about the infield defense behind them and single out Berti and shortstop Shane Opitz for gobbling up balls through the middle.

"It's (defense) something I really take pride in," Berti said. "When a pitcher gets a ground ball off the bat it's my job to make a play."

Pano respects the hustle but says improvements will have to be made. Berti is too often caught trapping the ball against his chest rather than fielding it cleanly but still manages to get the outs.

"He's got a lot of work to do. It's not textbook, he makes plays but he's a little rough. We're just going to have to smooth it out a little bit."

Come the offseason, Pano says they'll begin tweaking Berti's swing. They'll try to get him to hit more up the middle and rely less on infield hits as they continue the long grooming process of becoming a major leaguer. For now they're just letting him do what he does best, hit.


Future Jays Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nNone of the club's top three affiliates boast a legitimate candidate unless you're including Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. The free agent signee could be shifted across the diamond but still has a long way to go with the bat, hitting just .228 with Double-A New Hampshire this year.
\r\n
\r\nThat dearth of talent on the middle infield may in part be why the Jays selected nine middle infielders in the 2011 draft. So far, in the short two-month period since the draft, the most promising of those picks has been Jon Berti.
\r\n
\r\nSelected in the 18th round out of Bowling Green, the 21-year-old from Troy, Michigan has found a home atop the order of the class A short-season Vancouver Canadians.
\r\n
\r\nThe five-foot-10 Berti is hitting .331 through is first 37 games with 17 RBI and an .848 OPS. He's also racked up 16 steals while batting primarily in the leadoff spot.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's a grinder, he's a battler, he plays hard,\" said Canadians hitting coach Dave Pano, who had all of three days to work with and get to know Berti during a mini-camp prior to the start of the season.
\r\n
\r\nBerti, a junior in college, came straight from Bowling Green where he hit .423 in his final year.
\r\n
\r\n\"The bat is where I figured it is,\" said Pano, noting the team hasn't done anything to adjust his swing so far in his young pro career. He also made the distinction between adjusting swing mechanics and an approach at the plate, something that has been worked on.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's very instinctive for his age. We haven't done anything with it [swing] yet, but we have talked about it. One thing we have worked on is his approach and preparation and what he wants to do.\"
\r\n
\r\nPano also credits the speedster's legs with getting padding his hit total, something he'll have to stick with to succeed.
\r\n
\r\n\"He can really run. When he utilizes his speed to the best of his ability, he gets a lot of infield hits and things like that. He's going to put the ball in play and make the defense make some plays.\"
\r\n
\r\nBerti himself is just relishing the new environment, refusing to place expectations on himself despite his lofty numbers.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's not that I really expected [lofty numbers] it or didn't,\" said Berti. \"It's about coming to the park every day and figuring this level out.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe's taken Pano's approach advice to heart, identifying what doesn't work for him.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've worked hard at trying to stay more relaxed at the plate and stay through the middle. When I try to pull it a little more that's when I get in trouble.\"
\r\n
\r\nOne advantage Berti does have is that he has some experience playing with wooden bats. While Bowling Green plays in an aluminum bat conference, Berti played summertime baseball for the Brewster Whitecaps in the prestigious Cape Cod League, an all-wood bat league.
\r\n
\r\n\"There's a bit of a difference but I have some experience with the wood bats,\" said Berti, whose father Tom played two years in the Detroit Tigers organization, never reaching the major leagues.
\r\n
\r\nWhile he seems to have the offense figured out, Berti's defense still needs refining. Drafted as a second baseman even though he played mostly shortstop in college, Berti has committed only three errors thus far. The team's pitchers routinely rave about the infield defense behind them and single out Berti and shortstop Shane Opitz for gobbling up balls through the middle.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's (defense) something I really take pride in,\" Berti said. \"When a pitcher gets a ground ball off the bat it's my job to make a play.\"
\r\n
\r\nPano respects the hustle but says improvements will have to be made. Berti is too often caught trapping the ball against his chest rather than fielding it cleanly but still manages to get the outs.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got a lot of work to do. It's not textbook, he makes plays but he's a little rough. We're just going to have to smooth it out a little bit.\"
\r\n
\r\nCome the offseason, Pano says they'll begin tweaking Berti's swing. They'll try to get him to hit more up the middle and rely less on infield hits as they continue the long grooming process of becoming a major leaguer. For now they're just letting him do what he does best, hit.
\r\n
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