So apparently, Jairo Beras is a pitcher now.
The news comes after not hearing much about Beras since rumors that the Rangers were contemplating a switch to the mound hit the web in late May. Beras himself hasn’t played in a game for Down East since June 6th, as a 9th inning pinch-runner. His last start came on June 4th, when he struck out twice on seven pitches before being pinch-hit for to spare him of a third AB.
Despite this being his 6th year in the Rangers’ system, Beras is still only 22 years old. The details of his 2012 signing are well-known and controversial. The weirdness of Beras’ journey starts with the Rangers signing him on Leap Day, February 29th of 2012, at a time when many other MLB teams thought Beras was a year younger than he actually was. While teams were scouting Beras in the winter of 2011, the MLB was given information that Beras was born on December 25, 1995. The Rangers, however, with credit to their scouts in the Dominican Republic, learned that Beras was actually born on December 25, 1994, that he was 17 years old, not 16, and thus was eligible to be signed before the beginning of the international signing period on July 2nd.
The Rangers signed Beras for a $4.5 million-dollar bonus, and were immediately subject to an MLB investigation regarding Beras’ real, actual age. The investigation lasted four months. In July of 2011 the MLB approved the Rangers’ signing of Beras, but slapped him with a yearlong suspension for providing the league with false information about his date of birth. He spent the suspension working out at the Rangers’ Dominican facilities, but wasn’t permitted to play in any games.
Upon signing, Beras featured a projectable 6’5” frame and potential plus power, and even drew comps as sterling as Juan Gonzalez. He was viewed as very high-risk/high-reward, with some loud tools but a lack of knowledge on what to do with them. And without any games played, he was a bit of a mystery. His suspension ended on July 1, 2013, and he made his pro-ball debut the next day, starting for the Arizona League Rangers and going 1 for 3 with a triple and a walk.
He spent all of 2014 as a 19-year-old in Hickory, with middling results, and most of 2015 as a 20-year-old in Hickory, with decent results, though he was banged up for a good chunk of it. At this point, there was already some skepticism about Beras’ chances to succeed in or even reach the major leagues. He was still viewed as someone with upside, usually slotting in around the 10-15 mark of Rangers pre-2016 season prospect lists, but there were big questions about his swing and why his power wasn’t playing in games, issues with approach and pitch recognition, whispers about makeup issues, too many strikeouts, etc.
He put up some encouraging numbers in 2016 with the High Desert Mavericks in High-A ball, slashing .262/.306/.511 with 22 homers in 107 games, but with a 27.4% K-rate his approach still wasn’t where it needed to be, and with an ISO over 100 points higher than the rest of his career it could be that he was greatly aided by the Desert.
Now 22, it was assumed prior to the current season that Beras would begin the year with the RoughRiders in AA, but the Rangers opted to have him repeat at the High-A level, this time in North Carolina with the Down East Wood Ducks. The year has not gone well for Jairo. He’s hitting .227 with a .654 OPS, with 52 strikeouts in 151 at-bats.
On May 16th, in a game where the Wood Ducks allowed nine runs in the 1st inning, Beras was called on to take the mound in the 9th in order to save some bullpen arms. What followed seemed to intrigue everyone with the least bit of interest in the Rangers’ farm system, as right fielder Jairo Beras proceeded to hurl a 1-2-3 inning while showing off a sizzling fastball. The stadium gun for the Carolina Mudcats showed Beras at 101 and 102, I think we’ve all agreed that those readings were a little hot and it was more around 98-99. Still a blistering heater, though it was wild and scary and it came from a windup that was clearly that of a position player trying to pitch.
What do y'all think? Video creds to the man, Tyler Carroll. @Evan_P_Grant, @TepidP, @scottrlucas... pic.twitter.com/Rp27txPOkz— Dominic Cotroneo (@Dom_Cotroneo) May 17, 2017
It looks sort of like a knuckleballer’s motion, but at the end a laser beam comes out of it. You don’t need the statcast box, you can tell from the gunshot sound off the glove that it’s serious heat. Jairo looked unsure and a bit baby deer-ish out there but it was clear he started to feel it a bit after a couple of swinging strikes and he continued to just pump fastballs up in the zone and induced a groundball and a pair of flyouts. A job well done on getting through the inning, and a cool party trick that was previously unseen, but after tonight it’s back to the outfield for the rest of the season, right?
But apparently the Rangers had already been considering moving Jairo to the mound. “An active discussion for a while now…” JD said the following day. Beras played sparingly over the next couple of weeks, only garnering 18 ABs from the 17th of May to the 6th of June, and he hasn’t played since. There’s speculation that he’s been working on the mound in his off time. On the 22nd he was put on the temporary inactive list by the Wood Ducks, and is now officially being sent to the Hickory Crawdads as a pitcher.
Who knows what this can entail. One would greatly assume he starts out as a relief pitcher just to see what he can do, and if there’s a real possibility he can succeed on the mound. With his Dominican upbringing, long lanky figure, and high gas, however, one can’t help but be reminded of former Ranger Alexi Ogando, who started as an outfielder and eventually wound up as a Major League starter. I would be willing to bet that when Jairo takes the mound for the first time his motion looks nothing like it did in his appearance with Down East, as he was using almost all arm and was only finishing about a foot or two off the rubber. Another kink in the Jairo hose is that he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. An arm with no mileage on it that hits high-90s/triple digits is someone that a Major League team could take a flier on, so the Rangers will have a decision to make on if they want him as a hitter, as a pitcher, or at all.
Personally, I’m surprised they pulled the plug on Jairo Beras the Hitter so quickly, but evidently this has been something discussed in-house for some time. Either way it’s a spark of intrigue in an otherwise slow year for the farm, and Jairo Beras the Pitcher has the potential to be one of the most interesting developments of 2017.