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:
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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