Thinking About Martin Perez

Martin Perez has only thrown 162.1 innings in the majors, but he’s well-known within most baseball communities. He’s been one of the most-hyped prospects in the Rangers’ farm system in recent years, being named the number-three prospect and top pitching prospect by Baseball America in 2013.

Thus, when the Rangers promoted him to the big-league rotation for good in late June, many fantasy owners quickly jumped on the bandwagon and plucked him off waivers (if he was even available). Perez didn’t set the league ablaze like Jose Fernandez or display the makings of a potential ace like Gerrit Cole. He instead provided solid-average production and was a top-100 starter despite spending almost half the season in Triple-A.

As such, the 3.62 ERA won’t give anyone whiplash, but he won ten games and was nearly a two-win player in the majors at age 22. That’s nothing at which to scoff. The question, however, is how that level of production may look over the course of an entire season.

To best answer the above query, a comparison seems most appropriate. Perhaps we can find a starting pitcher who compiled similar peripheral numbers and possesses a similar repertoire. Consider the following:

Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 SwStr% ERA FIP
Martin Perez 6.08 2.68 1.09 9.8% 3.62 4.23
Player B 6.12 2.88 1.14 9.6% 3.97 4.40

The earned run average isn’t identical, but the overall profile is clearly analogous. Both pitchers have below-average strikeout rates and healthy swinging-strike rates, and both struggle with the long ball at times. Not only that, but both pitchers also rely heavily on their changeup and generate a high percentage of whiffs on that pitch. The difference is Player B threw 197.0 innings, while Perez only threw 124.1, so we can perhaps glean what the latter’s fantasy value would be over 200 innings by looking at Player B.

First of all, Player B is Jarrod Parker of the Oakland Athletics. He’s always been a personal favorite and he enjoyed a stretch of great pitching this year that was belied by home-run binges in April and September. At one point, Parker had compiled a 2.68 ERA with double-digit wins in 148 innings between May 11 and September 10. A handful of implosions ruined what was otherwise a fruitful season.

Nonetheless, Parker was ultimately a starting pitcher who ranked in the mid-60s in 2013. He had similar value to guys like Jorge De La Rosa, Matt Cain and Dillon Gee. That’s nothing to write home about, but it’s also what fantasy owners can reasonably expect from Martin Perez if we extrapolate his performance through an entire season with Jarrod Parker as a guidepost.

Perez is only 22 years old, though. He’ll turn 23 in April. Surely, we cannot expect his skill set to remain static, and we should factor in some improvement. Right?

That’s where I get a little lost with Martin Perez. Scouts have long been high on the southpaw and it’s difficult to argue with the stuff — 93 mph fastball and a near 10.0% swinging-strike rate — but the results have rarely followed throughout his career. Just a year ago, he only managed a 4.25 ERA in 21 Triple-A starts with only a 4.89 K/9 strikeout rate. I mean, he only had 13 more strikeouts than walks. I recognize you don’t scout numbers, but that’s still difficult to swallow from a top prospect, even if he’s young for the level of competition.

Perhaps Perez will take a step forward next season, but I’d hesitate drafting him with that expectation. On draft day, I’m valuing him as if he’d be a Jarrod Parker from 2013. If someone wants to take a chance and overpay for Perez, that’s fine. They may be rewarded. I’d rather be conservative in my valuation of such an inconsistent performer. I’ve been burned too many times by overdrafting young players and expecting improvement just because they’re young, without seeing specific reasons for increased success. If Perez falls to me in the draft and takes a step forward to realize the potential scouts have seen for years, that’s just surplus money in the bank.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

8 Responses to “Thinking About Martin Perez”

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  1. dirck says:

    The last couple of years in the minors were pretty bad for Perez . He actually pitched better in the majors last year than he did at either AA or AAA .I gave up on him 2 years ago and dropped him in my dynasty leagues .

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  2. ryan says:

    It also bears to mention that Perez was pretty steady over the course of the season. He may not have been spectacular, but there wasn’t a lot of variability to his stats game in, game out. He had a stinker against Cleveland – but after what you see is what you get. It tells me he has developed a reliable foundation to work off of. If he shows incremental improvement in the quality of his pitching during spring training he could be worth of targeting (i.e. Like when Teheran added a slider in 2013). That is a big if though.

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  3. The Humber Games says:

    I see all these new-fangled numbers, but the internets told me that Perez is the next Johan Santana, so it must be true

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  4. Dave says:

    The thing that confuses me about Martin Perez is that he averaged 8.5 K/9 during his first four seasons all the way up to the AAA level. In fact, up until he reached AAA, he averaged around 9 K/9 or more. Then all of a sudden, he stopped being a strikeout pitcher, when in 2012, he dropped down to 4.9 K/9 in AAA from 7.9 K/9 the year before when he split between AA/AAA. I am not sure if he changed anything, or if those bodes well for his future strikeout potential, and it simply could be that as he started to face better hitters, his strikeout numbers went down. However, I would be curious to see his pitch breakdown and heat maps between the aforementioned first 4 years and the last two years of his career. One thing I did notice is that his changeup was the only pitch that graded out as plus last year based on fangraphs pitch value ratings. Scouts have long said that in addition to a plus changeup, he had a plus curveball and a plus fastball for a LHP that could touch 97mhp. Perhaps as he develops his curveball, his fastball will also play up, and the strikeout rates will start improving. After all, good started need at least a 3 pitch mix to be effective, and curveball so far is the pitch that has been the least consistent.

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  5. Smells likes Rick Porcello in here.

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  6. Matt says:

    People who overreact to a top prospect not setting the world on fire right out of the gate crack me up. Most top prospect starters are going to struggle in year 1 at the MLB level. Not everyone comes out on fire like Jose Fernandez. Look at David Price. He was mediocre in his first season as a starter. So were many other prospects.

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