Three weeks ago, Jacob Berry was not a name many, if any LSU fans had heard of. Unless you follow college baseball closely, you'd likely never heard of the Arizona freshman slugger who was leading the Pac-12 in RBI and among the premier hitters in college baseball with a .352 average and 17 home runs.
Berry was a catalyst to propelling Arizona to a College World Series appearance and will look to do the same in Baton Rouge now that he's reunited with coach Jay Johnson at LSU. Entering his sophomore season, there's so much that Johnson gives the Tigers from an offensive standpoint.
Starting with his swing, Berry at a very early age learned to hit from both sides of the plate. Being a switch hitter in baseball is one of the truly valuable skills in the sport and Berry is about as good as they come.
"His swings are almost identical left-handed and right-handed. It starts with a good base, good balance, and he has what I would call a low-maintenance swing," Johnson said in a Tuscon.com piece earlier this season. "He gets in a good position to hit, he sees the ball really well and controls the strike zone really well, which allows him to be consistent.”
With an on base percentage of .439, Berry consistently hit for extra bases as 41 of his 87 total went for either doubles, triples or home runs.
If there's one weakness in Berry's offensive game at this point, it's the 58 strikeouts he recorded this season, which would've finished second on the LSU team to Gavin Dugas, who also proved to be the Tigers' most consistent hitter in 2021. Should Dugas return to LSU in 2022, the five headed monster including Dylan Crews, Tre Morgan and Cade Doughty would give the Tigers one of the most potent offenses in the country.
Where Berry will truly need to improve in that freshman to sophomore year jump is on the defensive end. During his lone season with Arizona, Berry had an .833 fielding percentage as he primarily was used as a designated hitter for much of the season. Berry had just 18 fielding opportunities the entire season, converting on 10 of them with three errors.
He spent most of the season putting up gaudy numbers at the plate but as a designated hitter. LSU is set to return Morgan, Doughty and Jordan Thompson in the infield, a pretty stellar group defensively. But one of the areas LSU struggled with was finding consistency at second base.
If Berry can make that leap as an infielder, LSU will have a major uncertainy scratched off the list heading into the 2022 season. In that case, it would free up Doughty to potentially move back to second, where he played his freshman year, and allow Berry to handle duties at third base.
These are situations that are months away from playing themselves out but it's important to point out that Berry is getting a heavy workload at third base for Team USA currently. The Tigers infield could be among the most lethal in the country with Berry at third base and would allow for another hitter to squeeze their way into the order as a designated hitter.