Prospect followers, please stop panicking over the demise of Texas Rangers pitching prospect Martin Perez. He will be fine. My first in person look at Perez came last week facing off against arguably the best pitcher on the planet in Dodgers Clayton Kershaw. Yes, he needs more seasoning at the Minor League level, but he should. As he approaches legal age, Perez is still far ahead of the prospect curve and has both the stuff and time to turn his three pitch mix into on-field results.
Video after the jump
In his two inning stint, Perez’ line was not particularly impressive, but the stuff was starting with a fastball in the 92-94 MPH range to open the game. His command was spotty including walks to both hitters leading off innings, but the pitch featured some late downward action – especially when down in the zone. It’s also impressive to see a pitcher with such a diminutive stature consistently pushing plus velocity from the left side early.
In the second inning, his velocity dipped a touch, but this is likely due to the early adrenaline rush tapering off leaving a pitcher without the durability to sustain velocity for multiple innings this early in the spring. Off the top of my head, I honestly can’t think of a young pitcher who threw multiple innings and maintained the same velocity in subsequent innings during my time in Phoenix.
Early on, Perez’ curveball was flashing plus with sharp, late bite and a surprising amount of depth. With close to true 12/6 break, it projects as a weapon at the Major League level if he can consistently start the pitch at the thighs against opposing hitters. In his second inning of work, the pitch became less effective as the hard break early on gave way to something softer as if he was guiding the pitch to home plate instead of simply snapping it off. Feel for one’s off-speed pitches can come and go, but again, the consistency developed from logging additional innings against advanced competition should help iron out the kinks.
At 79-82 MPH, his changeup had the makings of a strong third pitch, but was the least developed at this point. It’s very likely that it’s just too early in the spring to really gain feel for the offering, but Perez struggled to throw the pitch for strikes. The pitch was consistently down in the zone often missing down-and-out and out of danger. Additionally, one lefty-lefty change to Andre Ethier where Perez attempted to go inside with the pitch backed up nicely on the outfielders hands.
One concern was that Perez slowed his delivery slightly which was visible when viewing him from a side angle. Repetition will likely smooth this out and sharpen his command to both sides of the plate. If Perez can learn to start the pitch on the outer half to righties and fade it over the black, it will improve his effectiveness versus right-handed hitters. The ability to pair a backdoor changeup with a curveball breaking way from left-handed hitters may also prove to be a lethal combination.
Perez has the athleticism and ability to continue smoothing out his mechanics to tighten up present command issues. A fully healthy 2012 where Perez logs consistent innings throughout would likely do him wonders in that area.
Having missed Perez by a day during his time with the Hickory Crawdads in 2009, scouting “one who got away” was the prospect equivalent to big game hunting for me. Perez ranks only behind Danny Hultzen in terms of left-handed pitchers scouted previously in terms of raw stuff edging out Yankees Manny Banuelos by the closest of margins. Additionally, I’d prefer Perez to former first round picks Jed Bradley (Brewers) and Mike Minor (Braves) even though both have a significant size advantage which makes durability a bit easier to project.
Seeing Perez up against a true ace in Clayton Kershaw was telling in terms of just how talented one has to be at the big league level to truly earn such a lofty label. It would be unfair to project Perez’ place in a rotation based off of a couple of innings, but it was easy to see the raw stuff needed to excel at the game’s highest level was present in spades.