Will Martin Perez Be The Next Johan Santana?

The Rangers have proven that they are willing to push their pitching prospects, as evidenced by their usage of both Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz at the Major League level in 2009.  The next pitcher who could follow suit is 18-year old Martin Perez (he’ll turn 19 on April 4).

They pushed him to Double-A last season, where he did struggle in five starts (5.57 ERA, 14 K in 21 IP), but he was extremely successful in his time at Single-A:

5 Wins
93.2 Innings
2.31 ERA
1.23 WHIP
105 Strikeouts (10.09 K/9)
33 Walks (3.17 BB/9)
.332 BABIP

What You Need To Know:

  • Those 93.2 innings were comprised of 14 starts and 8 relief appearances.  It’s very possible that if he does make his Major League debut in 2010, he’ll be used as a relief pitcher, much like Neftali Feliz was in ’09.
  • He’s a left handed pitcher, which has helped add to the comparisons to Johan Santana that people have been making.
  • He was undrafted, signed as a free agent out of Venezuela.
  • Baseball America recently ranked him as the third best prospect in the Rangers organization (behind Feliz and Justin Smoak) saying, “Perez is more often compared to Johan Santana nowadays for his size, delivery, moxie and electric arm. He attacks hitters with a 91-95 mph fastball, and he’s still maturing physically, so he could throw hard. He has exceptional feel for his sharp 1-to-7 curveball, which he can add and subtract from at will, throwing it anywhere from 68-81 mph. He has an uncommon ability to manipulate the ball in a wide variety of ways.”
  • MLB.com has him ranked as the #18 prospect overall.  He was quoted there as saying, “There is a little bit of pressure, but I control it. I have learned to just concentrate on the game and block everything else out. You have to. You can’t worry about what others are thinking, just focus on what you are there to do.”
  • The BABIP was extremely high at Single-A, so he certainly has the potential to pitch significantly better.
  • He combined with two relievers to throw a no-hitter in ‘09.  In that game he went four innings striking out six and walking three.
  • The control is something to watch, though at his age he clearly is still developing.  While he improved at Double-A (it was a small sample size), you don’t like seeing him walking that many in the low minors with his stuff.  However, part of it could be the Rangers insistence that he throws more change-ups (as per Baseball America).

Final Thoughts:
The comparisons to Johan Santana tells you all you need to know about his long-term potential, but at 19-years old, that’s all he really has right now.  Those in yearly leagues can easily ignore him, because even if he gets to the Majors, it’s likely to be just as a relief pitcher.  Dynasty League owners, however, can safely stash him away as he is among the elite pitching prospects in the game.

What do you think?  Will he live up to the hype?  How good could he be?

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