Jake Newberry recently got a well deserved promotion from Northwest Arkansas to Omaha. Newberry had been tearing it up as the closer for the Naturals this season. Jake has shown a lot of growth from 2017 to 2018 as well showing that he has learned how to compete and get better at the level.
The Royals took Newberry in the 37th round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of Mira Mesa High School in San Diego. His head coach there described him as a tough, warrior-like competitor who hates to lose. Newberry had some college offers but didn’t have any that blew him away and decided to sign if he got drafted late his senior year of high school. After all, getting his pro career started would be better than playing NAIA or JUCO ball plus he might not get another chance. So Newberry took the offer the Royals gave him and headed to Arizona as a 17-year-old.
Newberry has steadily moved up the ladder for the Royals going from Arizona to Burlington to Idaho Falls to Lexington to Wilmington as a 21-year-old. Newberry got a taste of Omaha last year as a 22-year-old and is back there now after being promoted last week.
Breaking down the 2017 season and the 2018 season at the double-A level shows us some of Newberry’s improvements. The first thing is that he lowered the BB/9 rate from 3.4 in 2017 to 2.4 in 2018. The second thing is the K/9 rate went up. In 2017 it was 5.9 and in 2018 it was 11.2. That is a sizable increase. Newberry’s swinging strike rate was 10% in 2017 and is 17% in 2018. Newberry was getting a lot more swings called this year as well.
From watching him pitch several games last year and comparing them to this year, Newberry seems like he is locating pitches better. He is no longer just throwing strikes, he is throwing quality strikes that are tough to hit. This probably coincides with the higher strikes called rate as hitters take tougher pitchers. Newberry is locating his fastball exactly on the edge of the plate and not missing in the middle. The slider is being located better just out of the zone where guys chase but are unable to do much with it. The pitch is good and breaks hard 11-5 from a batter’s viewpoint. It almost has curveball movement but is a slider. Newberry also has an above average change up. The pitch has fade and is tough to pick up. I’ve seen LHHs just look stupid on it. And saying that, I’ve seen RHHs look stupid on his slider also. Newberry has transformed his stuff from last year to this year. He had 12 multi-K outings in 25 games at NWA this season.
The Royals gave Newberry a taste of the Arizona Fall League in 2016 where he pitched 2 games. Newberry also pitched in Puerto Rico that winter throwing in 6 games. Newberry was named a 2017 and 2018 Texas League All Star. Newberry might not be a closer going forward, but closing at NWA was a good thing for his development. Newberry could get another audition in the AFL and possibly be lost in the Rule 5 Draft if not protected as he is eligible. Newberry will continue to work toward a shot in the majors with the Royals or another team if the opportunity arises.