For a baseball team that hasn’t had the greatest track record of cultivating minor league pitching talent to the point of reaching the Major Leagues, being named as its number one pitching prospect could be a designation accepted with lukewarm enthusiasm at best.
After all, plenty of other “top” prospects for the Milwaukee Brewers have flamed out or faded away throughout the years, especially in recent history.
Mark Rogers can’t stay healthy. Eric Arnett has struggled in Low A. Dylan Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and chose to attend college while learning how to deal with his disease. Several other high draft picks have been released.
It’s been a rough road.
In fact, looking back at the past decade of just First-Year Player drafts for the Brewers (so including 2002 to 2011), they’ve drafted a pitcher in the top five rounds 26 times, including five times as their first draft choice of a given year. (Yes, this includes 2010 because even if you want to exclude Dylan Covey because he didn’t sign, their second pick, Jimmy Nelson, was also a pitcher.)
Yes, Yovani Gallardo was drafted and developed by the Brewers. Gallardo has been a tremendous success, especially when compared to his fellow draftees to this point, but he’s clearly and glaringly the exception to an otherwise fairly firm rule.
(To impress your friends with a piece of trivia, did you know that the longest-tenured pitcher of the Brewers organization who was drafted by the Brewers organization wasn’t even drafted as a pitcher? Sidewinding righty Tim Dillard was chosen in the 34th round of the 2002 draft as a catcher.)
So far, however, the label has done nothing to stunt the growth of #60 on our profiling countdown to Opening Day:
Wily Peralta was acquired in alternative fashion when he signed with Milwaukee on November 26, 2005 as a free agent from the Dominican Republic for a bonus in the amount of $450,000. He was only a 16-year-old at the time, a necessary age range to scout in Latin America.
Peralta was recently named as the #1 prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and #49 overall in baseball, by MLB.com. With the next closest fellow Brewers prospect checking it #97 overall (Jed Bradley), it pretty easily christens Peralta with the “top organizational pitching prospect” title belt.
Still just 22, Peralta stands at 6’2” and is listed as weighing 240 pounds. He comes at hitters with a mid-90s fastball (having touched 98) and a mid-80s slider. At times last year he flashed a developing changeup as well. A third pitch will be necessary if Peralta is to fill the role of a starting pitcher at the Major League level.
Peralta does have a Tommy John surgery in his rearview mirror but is far removed from the surgery as it cost him the 2007 season while rehabilitating.
2009 was really when those outside the organization began to take notice of Peralta. That season he posted a 3.47 ERA, supported by a 118/46 K/BB ratio, while allowing 91 hits in 104 innings pitched for the Low-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. 2010 was spent in both High-A Brevard County (3.86 ERA, 75/40 K/BB, 102 hits in 105 innings pitched) and Double-A Huntsville (3.61 ERA, 29/24 K/BB, 43 hits in 42 innings).
Peralta began 2011 at Huntsville and pitched his way not only to Triple-A Nashville during the season but into discussions for a possible September call-up to Milwaukee. At Huntsville, Peralta compiled a 9-7 record, 3.46 ERA with a 117/48 K/BB ratio, 106 hits allowed in 119.2 innings over 21 starts. After his promotion to Nashville, Peralta responded in five starts with a 2.03 ERA, 40/11 K/BB, 21 hits allowed in 31 innings pitched, good for a 1.03 WHIP.
Scouts see a lot of things to like in Peralta. He’s considered physically strong, but at a listed 240 pounds on a 6’2” frame, scouts do believe he’ll have to closely monitor his conditioning. As for the pitching itself, his delivery is consistent and repeatable, and he generates easy heat with it as evidenced by the speeds I listed earlier. His slider is above average and shows late sweep, and he’s improved his changeup considerably. Again, if his improvements hold into the 2012 season, he’ll have shown enough of an arsenal to stay as a starter. Last year, Peralta finished with a 1.39 ground out to air out ratio as well, which, if you’ve got a competent defense working behind you, isn’t a bad thing.
The main problem for Peralta during his minor league career has been spotty command, but he reduced his walk rate this year and once again increased his strikeouts.
If he maintains the progress with his command, he currently projects as probably a solid number three starter who gives you plenty of quality innings.
And if he reaches that projection he’ll have certainly come a long way to join Gallardo as a welcomed exception.