After gaining significant helium during the 2010 off-season, prospect followers expected young left-hander Carlos Perez to firmly establish himself as the best of the next wave of young Braves pitchers. With Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Mike Minor in the midst of breaking through at the Major League level, along with prospect fallout from the Michael Bourn deal, a void between what’s now and what’s next has developed.
By statistical measures, Carlos Perez had a marginally successful 2011 at best. Over 126 innings, he struck out nearly eight batters per nine innings and proved to be a durable starter whose innings needed to be monitored closely the final two months of the 2011 season to avoid overuse. Unfortunately, Perez also surrendered more hits than innings pitched and his poor walk rates led to the worst WHIP among qualified pitchers in the South Atlantic League.
Video after the jump
However, this may be explained pretty easily as contacts have mentioned Perez’ body changed drastically during the 2010 off-season which may have thrown off his balance knocking mechanics out of whack. Having pitched the entire 2011 season as a teenager, it’s easy to forget how awkward those years can be for young men and how coordination may still be developing. For Perez, he appeared a disproportionate in uniform as his lower half was significantly more developed than his upper body.
That developed lower half works well with his mechanics as the lefty has a touch of Luis Tiant in his rock-and-fire throwing motion. And while quite long, Perez’ arm action is relatively clean and allows him to hide the ball off of his hip prior to release – even though the sum total of his mechanics appear to be max effort. Perez landing on a stiff front leg appears a little awkward and negatively affects the forward momentum he generates which explains his remaining tall during follow through and elevating the fastball too often. Additionally, one is forced to wonder how mechanics with so many moving parts can be successfully repeated by a big leaguer, let alone a 19-year old feeling his way through the lower levels?
In game action, Perez worked off of an 89-91 MPH fastball he struggled to locate. Instead of working both sides of the plate, Perez frequently worked the outer half and shied away from challenging opponents. When down in the zone, Perez’ fastball has a touch of late sink which leaves me bullish of his ability to post strong ground ball rates with added consistency. However, Perez’ fastball flattened out considerably from the belt up which is where he located most often. For me, this is directly responsible for his hits allowed. One thing learned from scouting lower level prospects is that no matter how strong the secondary offerings, a pitching prospect will struggle at the upper levels without plus velocity or consistent fastball movement. Right now, Perez has neither.
At 74-75 MPH, Perez’ curveball was inconsistent, but effective when released out front. When that happened, the pitch featured significant late downward action and true 12-6 movement. In my notes, I wrote the pitch, “dove to the front of the plate” making it extremely difficult for opposing hitters to barrel and lift. Of course the same stiff leg that leads to his elevating the fastball caused him to throw a number of “spinners” as well. Additionally, Perez had a tendency to wrap his wrist off of his ear at times which also contributed to his spinning instead of snapping a number of curveballs.
Perez’ best offering, a 79-81 MPH changeup leaves me hopeful the rest of his arsenal will come around due to advanced feel for the pitch. He combined excellent arm action with late fade allowing me to project the pitch as potential plus offering with further development. In having conversations with contacts about the importance of a changeup in terms of projecting all-around development, each agreed it was a key factor in gauging the ability for a pitcher to sharpen command and potentially develop new offerings such as a cutter.
In some respects, my instincts tell me to simply write off the 2011 season for Perez and use this spring as a proper measure of his talents based on uncontrollable physical development. However, the 2010 version of Perez still walked close to four batter per nine innings so a mulligan is not entirely appropriate. At present, Perez has the makings of a durable starting pitcher with three potential average or better pitches if things fall into place. However, with walk rates generally increasing as one advances through the minor leagues, Perez’ red herring makes it difficult to project him as a big leaguer at this juncture considering James McDonald drew the short straw in 2011 posting a league worst walk rate of 4.11 per nine.