Corbin Burnes is going to win the Milwaukee Brewers’ organizational minor league pitcher of the year award, and deservedly so. In his first full season as a professional, Burnes authored a pristine 1.67 ERA across 145.7 innings split between Class Advanced-A Carolina and Class-AA Biloxi. Only two pitchers across all of the minor leagues reached the 100 innings plateau this season and posted a lower ERA than Burnes: Jon Duplantier (1.39) and Merandy Gonzalez (1.66).
The Brewers have another arm in their minors, though, who would have been a no-brainer candidate for this award had it been any other season. That pitcher is Freddy Peralta, one of the three teenage hurlers that Milwaukee received from Seattle in exchange for Adam Lind back in 2015.
The Dominican native signed with Seattle as an international free agent back in 2013, but didn’t make his debut in full season ball until last year after joining the Brewers’ organization. In what was his age-20 season with Class-A Wisconsin, Peralta worked 60.0 innings and allowed a nifty 2.85 ERA, striking out 77 batters against 24 walks. That translated to a 3.31 DRA (98 DRA-) and ultimately lead to a midseason promotion to Brevard County, where Peralta began to struggle. He logged just 22.0 innings with the Manatees, coughing up 14 earned runs and 4 homers for an ugly 5.73 ERA/5.17 DRA.
Now in his age-21 season, Freddy began 2017 back in Advanced-A ball, but this time with Milwaukee’s new affiliate the Carolina Mudcats. He proved to be more than up for the challenge in his second go-around at the level. Batters just couldn’t hit Peralta during his 12 appearances with Carolina, registering just 6.2 H/9 and striking out at a 32.1 percent rate. Walks were a bit of an issue, as he doled them out to 12.8 percent of the men he faced. But altogether Peralta managed a 3.04 ERA to go along with a 3.50 DRA (79 DRA-) in 56.3 innings before getting bumped up to join Burnes with the Class-AA Shuckers in late June.
It’s often said that the jump from high-A ball to AA is the toughest for a prospect to make in the minor leagues, but Peralta tore through the Southern League even more so than he did in Carolina. Batters were even more futile against his stuff in AA, whiffing 34.6 percent of the time while recording only 5.4 H/9. Of the 263 batters Peralta faced, only two of them clubbed home runs off of him. He was able to cut down on the walks a bit, though his 4.4 BB/9 rate in AA is still less than ideal. In 63.7 innings with Biloxi to conclude 2017, Peralta recorded a stellar 2.26 ERA. Deserved Run Average thinks even more highly of his work with the Shuckers, crediting him with a 2.15 mark. That represents the 8th-lowest DRA among pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched in AA this season and translates to a DRA- of 53, or 47 percent better than league average.
Combined between his two stops this season, Freddy tossed an even 120.0 innings while authoring a 2.63 ERA. His opponent batting average of .177 ranked as the best BAA among any pitcher in the minors that threw at least 100 innings. Peralta’s 169 strikeouts tied him for the 9th-most in the minor leagues, but only one pitcher – A.J. Puk – threw at least 100 innings and had a higher K-rate than Peralta’s 33.4 percent. Simply put, Freddy Peralta dominated opposing batters this season.
Beyond just his statistical performance on the mound, Peralta caught the eye of a few scouts this season. Back in the end of July, BP Scout Scott Delps had an in-person look at Freddy and came away quite impressed:
“Peralta does not have any pitch that will wow anyone, but the whole package is quite intriguing. He is adept at changing both speeds and looks on his 88-92 fastball. He sinks it, cuts it, and runs it with good command. He can throw the fastball anywhere in the zone and the changes in velocity and movement make it tough on hitters. He is especially adept at using the fastball up in the zone as a put away pitch. He also spins a potentially plus slider at 84-86 with late life. His curve and change are works in progress but each flashes average. Peralta complements this potentially deep repertoire with a bit of an offbeat delivery. He uses a full windup which, coupled with throwing slightly across his body from a high-three-quarters slot, gives him a lot of deception. Though there are a lot of moving parts to the delivery, he repeats it successfully and gets good extension on his pitches.”
— Brad Ford (@BrewCrewBlue) July 29, 2017
Peralta is a rather diminutive fellow as far as pitchers go, standing at just 5’11” and weighing 175 lbs, which generally doesn’t portend well to being able to remain a starter for the long-term. Delps does note, though, that Peralta is able to maintain his velocity and movement deep into games so that helps to alleviate some of those concerns. Despite the high walk rate, Peralta registered an above-average 0.83 CSAA (Called Strikes Above Average) in AA, which supports the 50 grades that he receives for his control/command. Peralta’s stuff isn’t overpowering, but he knows how to locate it in order to miss bats and avoid hard contact. Ultimately, Delps offers the ceiling of a #3 or #4 starter for Freddy. He adds that if he can continue to develop either his curve or changeup into an above-average offering to pair with his already strong fastball/slider combination, then we are possibly getting into #2/#3 territory.
Just toss the 21 year old right-hander on to the heap of promising young arms that the Milwaukee Brewers currently possess. With pitchers like Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes quickly coming up to join talented and controllable arms like Josh Hader, Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, and Jimmy Nelson at the big league level, it’s beginning to look more and more like the homegrown arms, rather than bats, are what will end up driving Milwaukee’s sustainable success in the long run.