Remember when a piece of gum beneath the bench of a local bus stop had more value than the Brewers farm system? Yeah, I’m talking about the dark days. As crazy as it seems, that was only a few years ago. It now seems every day a player, whether it be at Colorado Springs, Biloxi or elsewhere, is having a stellar performance at the ballpark that generates retweets and shares on social media. In just a short period of time, David Stearns has constructed one of the talented organizations in the game, receiving praise from pundits all across baseball media. One of the players he acquired in the offseason has begun the year on a tear for the Timber Rattlers down in Class A and it was a player that received skepticism when the trade was first made. It hasn’t even been a year and Stearns is already silencing critics.
The player I’m talking about is pitcher Freddy Peralta. Stearns and the Brewers acquired Peralta, Carlos Herrera and Daniel Missaki back in early December in exchange for Adam Lind. Immediately following the transaction, numerous worries were made clear by Brewers fans. Why would the Brewers trade for such young players? They were right in the fact that all three players are young. Peralta is 19, Herrera is 18 and Missaki still can’t legally buy a drink in the states at 20-years old. However, those same fans that were moaning about youth also failed to realize the rolling of the dice Stearns played in his gamble. If even one of those three players makes it to the big league level, the trade can be considered a success. Could Peralta be that player? Who knows, but as of right now, he is showcasing his talents in an exciting manner.
Following a stint in the 2015 Arizona Fall League that saw him go 2-3 with an ERA of 4.11, the Brewers opted to send Peralta to Appleton to begin 2016. He’s wasted no time in any of his starts. Through six games, Peralta boasts a 2-o record and an ERA of just 1.31. The rest of his stat line falls hand in hand, as you will see below:
Not too shabby for just a 19-year old kid.
To me, the most intriguing component to this data is his strikeout to walk numbers. Throughout his very short career thus far in the Minors, Peralta has demonstrated a dominant advantage over hitters in regards to strikeouts. Compute the K’s and BB’s above and you’ll come out with the following K%: 27.3 percent.
Peralta has not missed a beat in his transition of farm systems. As a matter of fact, he’s not even at his best yet. Last season in rookie ball with Seattle, his K% was a tad higher at 28.8 percent. Dating back to his first stint with pro ball in 2013, strikeouts have always been Peralta’s forte. In his time in the Arizona Fall League last year, he finished second in strikeouts with 67. His K% has never dipped below 18 percent in his tenure.
The overall success of hitters has also dropped this season for Peralta compared to prior years. As previously mentioned, he’s currently holding batters to a dead-even .200 average. Opponents’ batting average has undergone a pattern of limitation for the right-hander. In his second year of Mariners rookie ball, batters checked in at an average of .270. Peralta then sliced that number in half by 0.35 points to .235 the next year and it has now progressed to .200. His overall BABIP has also been promising so far this year at Wisconsin — last season saw a career-high in the category for him (.333), but Peralta has done a terrific job maneuvering it down to just .273.
As for the arsenal Peralta provides, he’s been featured in the 89-93 MPH range with his fastball while showing some flashes at 94 MPH. Scouts appreciate his smooth, repetitive arm action combined with a fluent delivery. They also hold out hope that he keeps advancing his offspeed, which currently consists of a slider and changeup. Out of that duo of change-of-pace attacks, his changeup seems to be currently be the more efficient pitch.
The main struggle surrounding Peralta’s game has to be his inconsistent walk rates and spotty command. His time in the Arizona Fall League during the 2014 campaign saw him walk 24 hitters, which is by far the most in his short career. He rebounded the following year by refining those numbers to just eight batters in 57 innings pitched. However, his command has seemed to fluctuate between good and bad, as he has already surrendered those eight walks this season in Appleton. That being said, like so many other young pitchers his age and even older, consistent command and accuracy will be on the radar of things to fix.
Don’t let this piece give you the wrong idea by making it seem Peralta is primed to leapfrog through the Minors. Like the other wild cards gained in the Lind deal, he remains a tender talent that requires the proper amount of development. Right now, that development seems like it could take a minimum of three years before he sniffs the Major League level, perhaps even more. Peralta is currently ranked the No. 26 prospect in the Brewers organization. By the year’s end, he’ll definitely be a few spots higher. With luck and continued success, don’t be surprised if a chance exists where he cracks the Top 20.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs