Eury Perez of the Miami Marlins came to the Majors with a 97 MPH four-seam fastball and a reputation as a fireballer.
He didn’t disappoint across his Minor League career, registering a WHIP below 1.00 and averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
A funny thing happened on the way to becoming the next great strikeout pitcher. It turns out Major League batters can hit 97 MPH if it’s relatively straight.
Despite the four-seamer with a velocity in the 98th percentile and spin in the 99th percentile averaging 97.3 MPH, Eury Perez’s fastball has been hit for a slash line of .290/.444/.677 since his call-up.
All 3 of his home runs allowed come on the pitch, as have six of the eight extra-base hits he’s allowed in his first 19 Major League innings.
The four-seamer accounts for 46% of Perez’s pitches, leaving 54% for secondary pitches, which in Perez’s case could be a misnomer.
Almost all of the damage allowed by Perez has been on his fastball, as opponents are hitting only .143 on his slider (27% of pitches), .083 on his curve (19%) and .000 on his changeup (9%)
The curve and changeup are used mostly against lefthanded batters and they’ve been devastating, with the curve sitting with a 59.3% Whiff% and a 36.8% PutAway%
One of Perez’s issues early on has been walks, of which he’s allowed 10 across 19 innings, equalling 4.7 bases on balls per nine innings, which is only good enough for the 14th percentile. Even if those walks don’t score, they are adding pitches to the young phenom's valuable right arm.
To that end, he’s faced no more than 20 batters (3 times and 19 the other) and topped out at 88 pitches, which came in his first start with no more than 82 since.
Simply put, the Marlins are being extra careful with their 20-year-old future star very early into what they hope is a long and storied career and there’s no urgency for him to risk an injury at this stage.
In his last outing, May 28 in a 2-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels, Perez fired 5 shut-out innings, giving up only 2 hits, walking 4 and striking out three.
He used the fastball on almost half of his 79 pitches and it averaged a season-best of 98.4 MPH, reaching triple digits (100.1).
While there are plenty of good signs, there are some concerning ones. An ERA of 2.84 is countered by an xERA of 5.12, xFIP of 4.80 and a 1.21 WHIP.
Many big leaguers have “moments” but are inconsistent and never quite put it together for any length of time. The great ones go out time after time and perform at a very high level.
The path to stardom in the Major Leagues is rarely linear, especially for 20-year-olds.
Time will tell, but if the last start in Anaheim is any indication, maybe Perez is beginning to figure it out, learning where and how to use his most powerful tool, that four-seam fastball that’s in the top 6% in Major League Baseball.
Every pitcher has their bad days, but if Eury Perez can be consistent with his four-seamer and manages to keep the slider and curve as effective as they are now, look out National League East.