The Texas Rangers brought up prospect Martin Perez to make his MLB debut out of the bullpen and then make his first career start on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics. It was sort of surprising that the Rangers brought up the left-hander Perez, as he had a 5.02 SIERA and 4.39 FIP in AAA Round Rock. I had seen a couple of his outings early in the year, and he looked terrible, with horrible location and control. So I watched his first career MLB start:
He started the game hitting 92-93 MPH to Coco Crisp with some movement. A flatter fastball at 95 MPH was well located outside and was hit the other way foul. Perez then came inside with the 95 MPH and Crisp tried to move out of the way of it, but it was in the zone to get a strikeout. To Jemile Weeks, the 2nd batter, he threw what looked like a 94 MPH sinker as it just seemed to dart down. His first breaking ball was the 76 MPH curve to Josh Reddick, which was a strike and Reddick weakly fouled it off. After getting the K, he got Weeks to weakly ground-out to himself, before falling behind Reddick and throwing a meatball at 85 MPH inside that was ripped for a double. He jammed Yeonis Cespedes with an inside 94 MPH fastball to get him to weakly pop up in the infield to end the inning. His changeup, which went from 83-85 MPH was a terrible looking pitch without really any movement but he got a whiff on it to strikeout Johnny Gomes. He gave up a homer to Chris Carter on what looked like a pretty good pitch. It was 93 MPH and on the low and outside corner. Carter has some power, and the Ballpark in Arlington is extremely friendly to home runs in right field, and Carter hit it the other way for a homer. He showed off a better changeup later in the game, as it was 80 MPH (good speed differential from his fastball) and moved down, something the harder change didn’t do. He got a nasty swing and miss on what looked like a 78 MPH change. It was an inconsistent pitch, both in velocity and movement, but it can be a really good pitch. The guy is just 21. He has time to develop and establish more consistency in that pitch. When he got behind to Yeonis Cespedes 3-1 in the 4th inning, he threw a 82 MPH changeup and watched Cespedes whiff on it. Cespedes fouled off a couple good low fastballs but then grounded out on a well located changeup. He gave up a double to Carter in the 4th, but again, it wasn’t a bad pitch, the only thing you can complain about is that it was in the same spot as the homer was. A 2-0 change to Brandon Inge didn’t have much movement and was turned into an RBI single. After he got above a 100 pitches, a moving fastball low and away to Cespedes was drilled for a hit (with help from a bad play by Nelson Cruz). The pitch was just at 90 MPH. At 91 MPH up high, he got a fly-out. That ended his outing, a solid 4.19 FIP outing.
Overall, he averaged about 92 MPH on both of his fastballs (the 2-seamer and 4-seamer) and threw his changeup about 25 % of the time. All 5 whiffs he got in the game came on the curve, but 15 of his 2 seamers were strikes that weren’t put in play. He had some problems with his release point, but it wasn’t anything you wouldn’t expect from a young pitcher:
What you notice about Perez, and why his early problems in AAA were so frustrating, he has good stuff. Look at the movement combined with the different velocities he gets:
There is no reason to believe that Perez can’t be an above average starter in the big leagues. Is he ready for that role? Probably not, but I think what Saturday showed was that he is already at the point that he can be a decent starter in the big leagues. At his age, that is scary.