HT: 6-0 WT: 175 POS: SP
Frederick Keys (27 G, 26 GS, 151 ip, 4.53 ERA, 124 K, 49 BB, 12 HR, 1.37 GO/AO)
Drafted in the 6th round of the 2006 amateur draft out of Clemson University, Jason Berken made an immediate impression in short-season Aberdeen. Although he missed his 2005 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Berken posted a 46:5 K:BB ratio in his professional debut and the Orioles had no problem skipping him over low-A for his full-season debut. The results were less promising, but some in the organization think his stuff may yet take another step forward another year removed from his elbow woes.
Berken's manager at Frederick, Tommy Thompson, told ITW "When you pitch at a place like Clemson, a major school- SEC, ACC Big 12, PAC-10, whatever- and have success, you should be able to skip [Delmarva] and come here. You might repeat here twice and come back here next year. But, you know what, his makeup, his stuff- he knows how to pitch. And when you're playing at a baseball powerhouse school, you learn how to pitch quick or you just get beat. He's adjusted to the wood bat, he's adjusted to the level of competition, and he's done a nice job also."
Even when he was struggling this season, no one doubted his makeup and desire to compete. His fastball gets up to the low-90's, but was often in the high-80's with good action. His off-speed assortment is more impressive and includes a hard slider, a softer curveball, and an above-average changeup. He commands all four pitches low in the zone.
Despite his struggles, Berken's age (23) and plus makeup likely dictate that he will start out 2008 in double-A Bowie's rotation. Being that this was only his second full season since some major arm issues, he stands a good chance of avoiding the fatigue that set in towards the end of 2007. If he can add another tick to his fastball as well, Berken has a chance to emerge as a legitimate big league rotation option. His assortment of pitches would be wasted in the bullpen.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via e-mail at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com