Prospect Countdown #2 – Martin Perez
By the Shutdown Inning staff
Martin Perez may be the most recognizable name and pitching prospect in the Rangers minor league system. It seems that even the casual Ranger fan can throw that name around. That’s what happens when people throw out comparisons to Johan Santana.
But what about Martin Perez is so special? His fastball certainly won’t light up the radar gun. His change up doesn’t cause knees to buckle. All of his tools are plus, yet none leap off the page. That is, until you realized how old this kid is.
Perez will turn 21 on April 4th, 2012.
The fact that he has been able to accomplish so much, and be around the game for so long, makes many of us forget just how young Perez really is. To already have a half season of AAA ball under his belt is remarkable. He has already faced adversity. His 2010 season was less than impressive. He posted an ERA of 5.96 for the year but showed an ability to keep the ball on the ground.
Martin Perez also has the advantage of being a left handed starting pitcher. Always in high demand, a left-handed pitcher with true number 2 potential is a valuable commodity. The Rangers have shown a willingness to protect and grow their young starter, rather than try to structure a blockbuster trade around him. In fact, the Rangers have had this younger for four years, all the while Perez commanded top 100 prospect status.
2011 was a very active year for Perez. He split time in AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock. In Frisco, Perez found steady and consistent success, boasting a 4-2 record with a 3.16 ERA while recording 83 strikeouts to 36 walks and one complete game shutout. His fastball showed life and increased velocity, and his curveball was finding the corners of the plate with greater consistency. Again, he was still only 20 years old.
Then came the call up to AAA Round Rock, where Perez would be squaring off against competition up to five or six years older than him. Here his age began to show a bit, and he struggled. He started 10 games and went 4-4 with a 6.43 ERA. The area of concern showed up in command, Perez struck out 37 and walked 20. Some would speculate that Perez was just extra cautious in the face of a large jump in opposition talent.
If Martin Perez had come along 10 years ago, it’s likely he would’ve had already made his debut with the Rangers at the big league level. As we all know, times have changed, a crown jewel of the farm system isn’t even a top buzz-worthy story of Spring Training. Perez just blends in, no one expects him to be a pivotal cog this year, and more importantly, the Rangers don’t need him to be.
The Rangers have positioned themselves to where they don’t have to microwave their prospects any longer, they can cook them low and slow if needed. Patience may prove to be a key in Perez’s development. He has never dominated hitters routinely as his repertoire suggests. And patience is a luxury the Rangers seem to have in the starting pitching department – at least for the time being.
This season will be pivotal for Perez, as he will be facing his first full season of AAA ball. The talent will be better, but so will Perez. The young man seems to have the right mental make up to face the challenge. He is reportedly thoroughly enjoying himself in spring training, playing with laser pointers, pulling pranks, and according to Matt Mosley of FSSW, talks of Cy Young awards with Japanese standout Yu Darvish.
ETAA: All Ranger fans should be on the look out. The Texas Rangers lineup could include Martin Perez by Opening Day, 2013.