When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his change-up, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.
The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. Often, those will be the same grades. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. – Kiley
Juan Perez, RHP, Johnson City Cardinals (STL, RK-Advanced—Viewed 7/23 at Princeton)
Perez is a 6’2/195, 19-year-old Venezuelan righty that signed for $80,000 in August 2011 at age 16. He’s steadily progressed from DSL to GCL to Appy League as a starter in his three pro seasons and is noted for his arm speed. Nathaniel’s grades surpass what scouts I asked about Perez told me, as Perez has improved this year in a league where only a handful of teams have their scouts do formal coverage.
FB: 50/55, CB: 30/40, CH: 40/45, CMD: 30/40 – Kiley
Given the Cardinals’ propensity for finding big arms out of seemingly nowhere, it’s easy to take interest in a teenager in their system throwing well in the Appy League. Perez doesn’t project as the next massive St. Louis pitching prospect, but he does carry significant intrigue.
Blessed with above-average arm speed, Perez worked at 91-93 mph, touching 94, in the first couple of innings in my viewing before tailing off to 89-92 in the latter half of his outing. The pitch doesn’t have a whole lot of life, and with a fairly mature frame, he doesn’t have as much projection as many teenagers, so its present velocity is easily the fastball’s biggest asset. He does show the ability to drive it down in the zone on occasion, but his command of the pitch is shaky due to his delivery.
Perez employs a tight hybrid 11-to-5 breaking ball that I initially called a slider but was told he refers to as a curve. It arrives at 77-81 mph (like the fastball, it declined a bit in velocity throughout the outing, starting at 79-81 and tailing to 77-79) with some sharpness and bite, though it doesn’t have as much pure break and depth as most curveballs. He likes to throw it as a chase pitch like you can see in the .gif above, but he also shows the ability to put the pitch in the zone against lefties and righties, and it still misses bats in the zone. Given that he can throw a sharp power breaker at his young age, the pitch has decent projection, but it’s tough to imagine it ending up significantly above average barring a revamp of its basic characteristics.
Perez didn’t turn to the changeup as much as the curveball, and it’s not quite as advanced of a pitch. It comes in at 84-85 mph with some sinking life and reasonably convincing arm speed, and he doesn’t seem to have a lot of confidence in it at present, but it has more projection than the breaking ball and should evolve into a consistently solid offering. He will throw it to both lefties and righties, but needs to use it more against southpaws as he advances.
As one might expect from a pitcher who has never posted a walk rate below 10% (his 11.6% rate this year is easily the lowest of his career), Perez has some work to do on commanding his pitches. He uses a relatively compact motion but flies open, causing the ball to sail on him at times. He wastes a lot of fastballs up and/or in to right-handed batters, and actually has been far more effective against lefties (.131/.185/.230, 18/4 K/BB, compared to .266/.389/.372, 22/17 against righties) this year. Given his youth and the strides he’s made, he has a chance to iron out many of his issues, though he’s unlikely to ever be a control artist.
Perez turned 19 the day before I saw him, and he already shows a good fastball and two playable offspeed pitches that could evolve into average pitches. He doesn’t have a ton of projection left, and he’s not in the same category that, say, Alex Reyes was in when he was in Johnson City last year, but he has a wide enough skillset to project to stay in the rotation all the way up the chain and potentially evolve into an inconsistent but reasonably effective back-of-the-rotation starter at the major league level. He’s young enough that dreams of production beyond that level aren’t entirely guaranteed to go unfulfilled, but given his distance to the majors, those dreams aren’t the likeliest outcome.
Pedro Fernandez, RHP, Lexington Legends (KC Low-A—Viewed 7/7/14 at Hickory)
Fernandez is 6’0/175, 20-year-old Dominican righty signed for $45,000 in September 2011 at age 17. He’s on a similar path as Perez, going from DSL to AZL to Low A in his three pro seasons. Fernandez is a medium-framed righty with arm speed and limited off-speed/command that’s held back by his delivery. It looks like Nathaniel saw a bad day for Fernandez’s off-speed, particularly.
FB: 60/60, CB: 40/45, CH: 45/50, CMD: 30/40 40 – Kiley
Fernandez got significant hype in the offseason–he came in at #16 on the Royals list in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook despite being far from the big leagues. He’s held his own in skipping from the AZL to the SAL, which might seem to paint him as a pitcher on the rise, but the lack of quality attributes beyond his fastball puts his future in the bullpen.
Though he’s relatively small at 6’0” and 175 pounds, Fernandez has big arm speed and gets excellent extension, allowing him to whip the ball in at 92-95 mph, touching 96. Even in a 3 1/3 inning outing, his velocity tailed off fairly quickly, but if he ends up a full-time reliever, that won’t matter. The pitch will show some tail up in the zone at times but often is fairly straight; however, it gets on hitters quickly thanks to the aforementioned extension, thus sometimes playing above its velocity.
Fernandez’s curve comes in at 75-77 mph, which is a perfectly reasonable velocity for the pitch to arrive at, but it plays a lot softer. It has very loose ¾ break and rolls rather than bites; further, it lacks the requisite depth to be successful with any regularity. He shows the ability to put some power on the pitch, so it may become fringe-average in time, but it needs a lot of development to get there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up turning into a slider in the future.
Fernandez only threw one changeup in my viewing, an 84-mph pitch without much action. Obviously, it’s tough for me to say much about it.
Fernandez has a busy delivery that isn’t easy to repeat. His elbow comes up in the back and he throws somewhat across his body, taking a long stride. He varies the timing of his motion, sometimes slowing down in the back, and needs to get more consistent in this department in order to hit his spots with more frequency. He’s a smaller pitcher who has some athleticism and coordination, but he’s something of a thrower at present, especially with his fastball so far ahead of his offspeed pitches. Since he’s just 20 and has some positive attributes, he has a chance to have playable command down the line.
Fernandez is touted as a sleeper in the Royals system, and his big arm certainly holds some intrigue—not too many 20-year-olds have his arm speed. The rest of the package is very underdeveloped at present, though, and he’ll need a lot of refinement in order to reach his ceiling. Given the rawness of his secondary pitches and command, that ceiling likely lies in the bullpen, where he could throw explosive mid-90s heat in short stints. He needs something else–command or another pitch–to step forward into the average range for him to make an impact.