|Berti Becoming A Force|
Berti isn't just about the stolen bases
DUNEDIN, FL - Since being drafted by the Blue Jays, Jon Berti hasn't been afraid to swipe a bag, but the five-foot-ten second baseman has become even more aggressive on the basepaths this season at Dunedin.
Berti stole 23 bases in 60 games at Class-A Short-Season Vancouver in 2011 and racked up 26 steals in 60 games at Class-A Lansing before getting called up to High-A Dunedin halfway through the 2012 season.
Through 114 games in his first full season at Dunedin, Berti has run rampant on the basepaths, as he leads the Florida Coast League with 51 steals, 18 more than the next highest player. Berti credits his development as a base runner this season to the coaching staff at Dunedin.
"I've definitely learned a lot when it comes to base running through all my coaches and being brought up through this organization," Berti said. "But I feel like especially this year I've taken the next step with our hitting coach, Stubby Clapp.
"He's done a great job of filling me in on little things here and there about a pitcher and about their time [to the plate], and some gives or tells that the pitcher or catcher will show."
Berti's aggressiveness becomes even more apparent when you consider that he has been stealing more bases this year in spite of an inferior on-base percentage compared to his seasons at A-ball and low-A. Berti hit .291 to go along with a .387 OBP in 2011 and followed that up with a .281 batting average and .391 OBP at Lansing last year.
He went through an adjustment period upon being called up to Dunedin last season – hitting bellow the Mendoza line in 50 games at High-A – but has rebounded to a tolerable .251 batting average and .335 on-base percentage this year. Hitting coach Stubby Clapp feels that Berti has been better than his numbers reflect at the plate this season.
"I'll tell you what, he's hit one of the hardest .250's that I've seen in a long time," Clapp said. "He's got a lot of line-outs. A hit here or there and he's hitting .280 or .290 and knocking on .300 real easy. He's taken a real solid approach to the season and he's been productive for us in that leadoff spot."
The numbers seem to support Clapp's claim. For a speedster like Berti, his .303 BABIP this season could be considered a bit unlucky, especially considering his .361 BABIP in 2011 when he hit .291 and his .335 BABIP when he hit .281 at Lansing. Additionally, Berti's strikeout rate has remained in line with what he did at Lansing and Vancouver. Clapp also discussed some mechanical adjustments that he felt has helped Berti at the plate.
"Early in the season he had a leg kick. He eliminated the leg kick to eliminate some movement, which helps him see the ball better and again it comes back to strike zone discipline. When you see the ball, you can have that discipline.
"I think it was throwing his timing off. Sometimes there's balance issues and stuff like that. That was early in the season when I was starting to get to know him. With this being my first year as the hitting coach, I didn't know the past of some of these guys.
"[When they] have something like a leg kick, I don't really dig into it and ask [about it], but I let them prove why it works or why it didn't in his case. For him and his role on the team, it wasn't really conducive to his swing and his idea of being able to get on base."
While speed is obviously Berti's biggest asset on the field, Clapp also emphasized his coachability.
"He's pretty much been low maintenance, which is a hitting coach's dream. He understands the process and exercises the process.
"He's one of the players that is able to take information and apply it instantly. He's going to be just fine and is fun to watch. He's a go-getter, is willing to learn, he's got great questions, and he's going to be fine at the next level."
Heading down the stretch, Berti is trying to finish the season on a strong note, unlike last year after being called up from Lansing in July. Aside from the learning curve that Berti faced at Dunedin, it was also the first time that he played a full 140-game season. Berti admitted that the toughest adjustment for him last year was dealing with the grind of playing everyday, but is ready for it this time around.
"[Playing every day] doesn't just break you down physically, but mentally too. You've got to be smart with your work – still working hard, but working smarter to keep yourself fresh both mentally and physically for July and August.
"You learn to deal with the ups and downs of a long season. One hundred forty games is a long, long time and you come to learn that each at bat isn't life or death and you learn to deal with those ups and downs. That's what this level is for and what the minor league process is for, so you're used to it by the time you get to the big league level."