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Is Marlins’ selection of Jacob Berry already looking like a mistake?

The Marlins passed over other polished college bats to draft Berry with the 6th overall pick.

With the 6th pick of the 2022 MLB Draft, the Miami Marlins had the chance to take players like Brooks Lee, Kevin Parada, Gavin Cross, Jace Jung, and Zach Neto. Instead, they selected Jacob Berry out of LSU, a talented prospect in his own right, but one with several clear flaws and limitations.

By the end of their first professional season, several of the names mentioned above made it up to the Double-A level, while Berry remained behind at Low-A. And it’s not like the former college star put up special numbers against that easy competition.

Two months removed from the draft, the question I’m already asking myself is this: Did the Marlins whiff on the selection of Jacob Berry?

In the 2022 NCAA season with the LSU Tigers, Berry showed that he could be an amazing hitter (.370/.464/.630/1.094, 15 HR, 48 RBI in 53 G). His production was almost identical to what he’d done the previous year at the University of Arizona. Somebody with that track record while playing in power conferences who also has the ability to switch-hit seemed to be a “safe” pick for the Marlins.

Although Berry’s offensive potential was undeniable, it was clear during the draft process that defense would be an issue in the pros. At LSU, played 39 games at third base, two games in left field, and 14 games in right field. Some guys have real defensive versatility, but in Berry’s case, he was positionless, moving around just to make room for his teammates. On the 20-80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline rated him as a 40-grade fielder and a 50-grade thrower.

“So much is dependent on your skill set on offense,” MLB Draft analyst Mason McRae said of Berry on Monday’s episode of Fish Stripes LIVE. “It’s so tough to just bet on that, whereas you can get that same value 30 picks later.”

Berry had a slash line of .264/.358/.392/.750 with the Jupiter Hammerheads. He played all of his defensive innings at third and started the rest of his games as a DH. Pipeline projects him to be in the big leagues in 2025.

The pick of Berry would have been a little bit easier to understand if he possessed big-time power to go along with his good hit tool. In Jupiter, he had only three homers in 148 plate appearances with no batted balls beyond 386 feet, according to Stacast.

Let’s check in on some of the other first-round options who the Marlins passed over when taking Berry.

Brooks Lee (8th pick, Minnesota Twins)

Many of us Fish Stripes staffers were dying for the Marlins to draft Brooks Lee 6th overall. His college numbers were very similar to Berry’s and he did it while playing shortstop every day. Even if there is no guarantee that Lee sticks at shortstop forever, the Marlins need more minor league depth at that position.

Lee was promoted to AA at the very end of the season after slashing .289/.395/.454/.848 with 4 HR and 12 RBI at High-A. He is expected to be up with the Twins by 2024, according to Pipeline (a year earlier than Berry). So far, Lee seems to be developing more quickly than Berry and he has the upside to be a more valuable all-around player.

Kevin Parada (11th pick, New York Mets)

The best catcher in the draft was Kevin Parada. Parada’s 2022 season at Georgia Tech was out of this world (.361/.453/.709/1.162, 26 HR, 88 RBI). He isn’t the best behind the plate, but when you know that a guy has the power that Parada has shown, it’s worth the risk to take him and trust that he will make the necessary adjustments on the defensive end. Worst-case scenario, he can transition to an easier position down the road.

I would have picked Parada over Jacob Berry. In a small sample of 10 games at Low-A, Parada was limited to one homer, but slashed .276/.463/.414/.877.

Jace Jung (12th pick, Detroit Tigers)

One of my personal favorite prospects in the draft was Jace Jung. He has the hit tool, power, and defensive versatility. I am more confident in his power potential than Berry’s.

The Tigers assigned Jung straight to High-A affiliate. Aside from a 18.7% walk rate, his performance at the plate was mediocre (.232/.373/.333/.706, 1 HR, 13 RBI). They had him playing second base, where he committed only one error in 27 starts.

There is still time for Jacob Berry to make us feel differently about his selection, but it hasn’t been the best first impression when considering who the alternatives were. The Marlins are counting on him to be a middle-of-the-order bat on the fast track to the majors.

Marlins director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik has a lot riding on Berry’s success. Fellow first-round position players JJ Bleday (2019) and Kahlil Watson (2021) have had their struggles as pros. For a franchise with a tight budget that doesn’t usually make big splashes in free agency, Svihlik needs to be spending his draft bonus pool wisely, or else offense will continue to be a weakness for the big league club.