'The best is yet to come' for Giants prospect who converted from catcher to outfield

May 18th, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Growing up, Victor Bericoto could only imagine what a professional baseball player feels in front of fans. His journey started as a catcher on his family’s team, called Las Vegas, in a stadium near his hometown in Maracay, Venezuela.

Now, years later, he knows.

“You can feel the adrenaline when we’re playing,” Bericoto said in Spanish.

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Getting the chance to experience the feeling of being a pro started with Bericoto making one of the most important decisions in his career, all before it really began: moving from behind the plate to the outfield. The move served as the catalyst for Bericoto on his journey to -- he hopes -- one day playing in the Majors.

“I know it’s hard, but I am working hard every day for that," the Giants' No. 19 prospect said. "And I know one day, I will reach that goal."

Before signing a $25,000 contract as an international free agent in 2018, Giants scouts visiting La Academia Mario Boldrini RC5 expressed interest in Bericoto. However, they wanted to see his abilities as an outfielder, not a catcher.

“Up until that point, I had been a catcher all my life,” Bericoto recalled. “I could play catcher, but my physique didn’t help me at that moment. My physique was better suited for the outfield and the San Francisco scouts told me I had a better future there.”

Once Bericoto agreed, the Giants began to assess him in the outfield for about five or six months. The transition was not easy, but the more reps he got, the more comfortable Bericoto felt. He signed with the Giants at 16 and never looked back to getting behind the plate again.

“I adapted quickly until I [felt like] a natural outfielder,” he said. “You can see the game and the entire field and make really good plays in the outfield.”

Bericoto has embraced his new role and made 146 appearances in right field throughout his career in the Minor Leagues. Developing him there is the primary focus for San Francisco, but he has also made appearances in left and center field.

But the position he has made his second-most appearances in is first base. During his rookie season in the Dominican Summer League in 2019, Bericoto played first for 30 games and committed seven errors. He was asked to fill in there again during his stint with Single-A San Jose in 2022 and was charged with five errors across 27 starts.

His overall defense was one area in which Bericoto looked to improve coming into the 2024 season and there is a lot of notable improvement, according to Squirrels hitting coach Cory Elasik.

“He's the guy who when you leave the ballpark, you look at him and you say ‘OK, that guy can play baseball,’” Elasik said.

Offensively, the 22-year-old has shown glimpses of his above-average power. In 2019, Bericoto slashed .337/.458/.470 in 65 games, earning DSL Postseason All-Star honors. The performance of his first season bled into his shortened 2021 year. The outfielder sustained a wrist injury, limiting him to seven games, but he made the most of them, slashing .333/.368/.722.

He began 2023 at High-A Eugene, where he hit .296 before he was subsequently bumped up to Double-A in July. He got off to a slow start in his first month with Richmond, but soon got into a rhythm to end the season strong. Bericoto led the Giants' organization with 27 home runs.

But Bericoto, a right-handed hitter, has gotten off to a slow start back at Double-A in 2024, with a .195/.227/.252 slash line through his first 32 games.

“It’s been a bit of a slow start, not what I was expecting,” he said. “But that’s when you see a ballplayer’s focus and work ethic every day until they reach their goal.”

Bericoto has worked with coaches on pitch selection and other adjustments to get back into a rhythm to let his talents flow. His at-bats may not have been what he wanted, but according to Elasik, they are still quality and have giving the team a chance to win every night.

“He did have a patch where he was making really good contact and just had some really bad luck -- hitting balls right at guys, just missing damage in parts of the ballparks,” Elasik said.

Glimpses of Bericoto’s Major League potential will continue to appear as he improves his game.

“I'd say the best is yet to come," Elaski said. "Especially for this year."