Freicer Perez has dominated the competition in 2017, and the New York Yankees hope this is the first of many seasons he does just that.
Justus Sheffield has the pedigree as he was one of two top prospects — along with Clint Frazier — acquired for Andrew Miller last July. Chance Adams and his terrific 2017 campaign have catapulted him up prospect boards. Domingo Acevedo is as imposing as they come, Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman have tremendous upside and Dillon Tate is beginning to live up to his draft selection.
All, of course, come with a wide variety of flaws, too.
But when the dust settled on the Yankees new-look prospect pool, one name has begun to emerge from the pack: Freicer Perez.
“Freicer Perez is better than [Justus] Sheffield, [Chance] Adams, any starter in that system,” said one National League scout on condition of anonymity. “He has a way to go but will be an impact pitcher. Watch out for him.”
Despite spending nearly $17 million on international free agents back in 2014, Perez was someone who flew under the radar, as the Yankees gave him just $10,000 to join the organization. Over his first two years in the system, the Dominican native pitched as though the money equated his talent.
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Perez suited up for the Yankees in the Dominican Summer League in his first season and followed that with a stint in Low-A Staten Island. He combined to average over eight strikeouts per nine innings between 2015 and 2016, a solid feat for a teen still developing his game.
But Perez has a knack for surrendering hits, as he allowed 66 in 69.2 innings pitched in the DSL and 51 in 52.1 innings pitched the following season. All in all, he combined to sport a 3.85 ERA, with many evaluators believing he was destined for the bullpen.
Entering 2017, expectations weren’t as high on Perez as they were with Sheffield or Adams or Acevedo. But flying under the radar has done wonders for the right-hander, as he’s burst onto the scene in a major way.
Currently anchoring the rotation of the Charleston RiverDogs, Perez and his improved mechanics have translated to additional success on the field.
“He’s learned how to do a better job of repeating his delivery, which I think is excellent. He mixes his pitches very well and, most importantly, has an idea when he’s on the mound,” the scout continued.
In 22 starts, Perez has already reached a career-high in innings (112.2). Over that span, he has allowed 91 hits (good for 8.5 H/9) but has an extremely impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 107:39. These numbers have translated to an ERA of 2.88, a WHIP of 1.15 and a batting average against of .220.
Perez currently enlists a diverse four-pitch mix, one that includes a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. His fastball, which has seen an uptick in velocity over the last three seasons, can now reach triple digits “when he goes for the jugular.” While his additional pitches remain works in progress, he has displayed “plus secondary stuff potential,” due to his delivery and “how easily the ball comes out of his hand.”
In his brief time with the Yankees, Perez has drawn comparisons to Dellin Betances, both due to his size and natural ability. But for those who think that could mean he’ll eventually turn into a reliever, that may not be the case. The NL scout admits Perez doesn’t have the curveball Betances does but he “is ahead of Betances at a similar age because he has a better feel for pitching and command.”
At 21 years old, Perez still needs to mature as a pitcher. But it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he can start the 2018 season in Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. If that does come to fruition, fans may see him in the Bronx sooner than MLB Pipeline’s 2019 ETA.
Who knows? At this time next year, he can be the unquestionable top pitching prospect in the system. And from there, the sky is the limit.
“His upside is scary,” the scout proclaimed. “He could potentially team with [Luis] Severino atop the Yankees rotation for years to come.”