The Milwaukee Brewers have had a long-running history of struggling to develop quality pitchers through their minor league system. These days though, it appears that narrative may be changing. While young big leaguer Jimmy Nelson and top prospects like Jorge Lopez, Josh Hader, Cody Ponce, Devin Williams, and Junior Guerra tend to get the bulk of the headlines, the Brewers are flush with intriguing pitching talent from the top to bottom of their farm system.
One such player is 23-year-old hurler Jon Perrin. The big righty was a 27th-round draft pick in 2015 by the Brewers, selected 811th overall after completing his senior season of an up-and-down career at Oklahoma State that saw him post a 3.18 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 240.0 innings pitched. Normally a late-round pick, especially one who was drafted as a college senior, wouldn’t be worth following all that closely. However Perrin’s body of work since signing with Milwaukee has made him nearly impossible to ignore.
After a brief debut at rookie-level Helena in 2015, Perrin was promoted to low-A Wisconsin. His run-prevention numbers in Appleton weren’t especially noteworthy as he wound up logging a 4.31 ERA in in 39.2 innings pitched. He was hurt by a .347 BABIP against, however, and his FIP of 2.54 was much more impressive. Perhaps most exciting of all was the fact that he posted a 34:4 K/BB ratio while allowing just one home run with a 47 percent ground ball rate.
Perrin began the 2016 season once again with the Timber Rattlers and was simply dominant from the get-go. Showcasing outstanding control, Perrin allowed just a 2.50 ERA in his first six starts covering an even 36.0 innings pitched. Perrin struck out 47 of the 140 batters that he faced (33.5 percent), including starts with 10 and 14 Ks. Perhaps even more incredibly, Perrin walked only one (!) opposing hitter and it wasn’t until his sixth and final start with the Timber Rattlers. He allowed just one home run while holding hitters to 48 percent ground ball rate, allowing him to work to an incredible 1.33 FIP.
Perrin received a well-deserved promotion to high-A Brevard County on May 10th, and he’s currently a member of the Manatees starting rotation. His first start was another terrific one that saw him allow just one earned run across six innings while striking out four and walking one. His latest start with Brevard County was his first bit of blemish on the year, however, and he struggled with his command while allowing four runs and walking four batters in four innings.
Perrin is an imposing figure on the mound, standing at 6’5″ and tipping the scales at around 220 lbs. He throws a from a three-quarters arm slot with a fastball that sits in the low-90s and features plenty of movement. Video snippets posted by the Brewers Prospects Twitter give fans an early glimpse:
— Brewers Prospects (@BrewerProspect) May 2, 2016
He complements his fastball with a slider that gets sharp downward movement and breaks away from righties as well as a changeup. He has gotten plenty of swings-and-misses on the slider and can spot the changeup for strikes.
— Brewers Prospects (@BrewerProspect) May 7, 2016
It’s important to keep in mind that at 23 years old, Perrin was a good year older than his average opponent while pitching in the Midwest League. A good bit of his domination is likely due to using his advanced command to take advantage of young hitters that are still learning the strike zone. Obviously one cannot totally ignore a 47:1 K/BB ratio, but it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to more age-appropriate competition in the Florida State League.
Expectations for Perrin’s future should therefore be tempered at this point. He’s more of a back-end starter/organizational depth type player, but for a player who was selected in the 27th round of the draft that would still be excellent value to be realized. Of course, that’s if Perrin even plans to continue his baseball career much longer.
Jon graduated OK State with a bachelor’s degree in history and spoke recently with David Laurila of Fangraphs about his future aspirations. Perrin took the LSAT over the offseason and in his Twitter bio, he describes himself as a “Current Milwaukee Brewers farmhand. Future Lawyer.” The Olathe, Kansas native told Laurila:
“I don’t think it’s going to happen, but if I get into Harvard, I’m probably going to be out of here. I love the game, but I think I can do more good in this world with a degree from Harvard Law School than I ever could playing baseball.”
I’m sure that while the Brewers would no doubt support Perrin if his law-school dreams are realized, they are selfishly hoping that his baseball career will continue and eventually bring him to the mound at Miller Park.