A few weeks ago, the Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals executed a minor trade that probably flew under the radar for most followers of the game. Personally, however, I was disappointed to see the Brewers part with right-handed pitcher/licensed financial advisor/political pundit/future lawyer Jon Perrin, who had been one of my favorite prospects to follow within the system. A 27th-round pick and senior sign back in 2015, Perrin had fashioned himself into a legitimate MLB prospect over the past few years while rising relatively quickly through Milwaukee’s system. But he seemingly fell out of favor with the front office after the 2017 season, even though he had just put the finishing touches on a 2.91 ERA/64 DRA- in 105.3 innings for Double-A Biloxi and was chosen to pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
Perrin has the build to start, as he stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 220 lbs. Although he doesn’t overwhelm with his stuff, he mixes his four pitches well and can throw his fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup all for strikes. He was scouted in the lower levels as having the potential upside of a mid-to-back of the rotation starter, so it seemed a bit curious when the Brewers converted him to full-time relief to begin 2018. The right started the year with Colorado Springs and authored a 2.59 ERA across 24.1 innings, but was sent back down to Biloxi while guys like Alec Asher and Paolo Espino received turns in the Triple-A rotation. Perrin continued to pitch out of the bullpen for the Shuckers until the trade, which GM David Stearns classified as “allowing Jon to get a little bit of a fresh opportunity.”
Perrin is Rule-5 eligible this fall and given how the org treated him this season, it was probably unlikely that he was going to net a 40 man roster spot. The rebuilding Royals are devoid of pitching talent, and therefore can offer Perrin a better opportunity to not only reach the majors more quickly, but to get there as a starting pitcher. The 25 year old has been pitching in the rotation for Double-A Northwestern Arkansas since the swap, posting a 3.21 ERA across 14.0 innings covering three starts.
In exchange for Perrin, the Brewers received a 22 year old right-hander who, according to Slingin’ Stearns, has “some ingredients to turn into a prospect.” Sal Biasi was an 11th-round pick of the Royals just last summer in 2017 and inked for a $125,000 bonus, the maximum slot value for a pick in rounds 11-40. Baseball America described the stocky right-hander as “a near-average athlete with functional body control and looseness to his delivery” while evoking a George Costanza comp, but a scout I spoke with indicated that Biasi is someone that the Brewers have liked for awhile and that he deserves more credit than that for his athleticism. The Penn State product had an offer to walk on to Villanova’s basketball team before electing to pursue baseball with the Nittany Lions.
Biasi has a pretty simple delivery, pitching exclusively from the stretch while releasing the ball from a standard high three-quarters arm slot. His arm action and head tilt creates a little bit of deception and can make it a bit tougher for hitters to pick the ball up out of his hand. His fastball is his best pitch, sitting in the low-90s with the ability to run up to 95 MPH. Both Baseball America and my scouting source thought Biasi’s secondary pitch, a curveball in the 79-82 MPH range, was a below-average pitch when he was drafted. Those factors, along with the idea that Biasi is a bit undersized at 6’0″ and 190 lbs, lead most to believe that his future will ultimately be in the bullpen. He’s pitched predominantly as a reliever since joining the professional ranks, starting only eight of 44 appearances over the last two seasons.
Biasi posted a nifty 2.41 ERA while tossing 56.0 innings across two rookie levels in his debut season of 2017, though peripherals like DRA didn’t exactly support that level of run prevention. His numbers have come back down to Earth during his first exposure to full-season ball in 2018. Biasi owns a 4.73 ERA in 51.3 innings for Milwaukee’s and Kansas City’s Class-A affiliates this year, though he has allowed only three earned runs in 8.7 innings so far for Wisconsin. He’s missed plenty of bats this season, whiffing 9.3 batters per nine innings, and his 3.9 BB/9 is a palatable number.
Since taking over in 2016, the Stearns regime has done an incredible job developing and deploying their pitchers. Milwaukee’s track record with their arms and their highly-respected cadre of pitching coaches, led at the MLB level by Derek Johnson and filtering throughout the org, gets me automatically interested in just about every pitcher that the front office specifically targets and brings into the fold. After all, this is the org that has coaxed ace-level run prevention from Junior Guerra and Chase Anderson, resuscitated the career of Wade Miley, taught veteran hurlers Jeremy Jeffress and Jhoulys Chacin a split-finger pitch that has become key to the success of both pitchers, and developed Freddy Peralta from teenager to rookie strikeout sensation.
So maybe Sal Biasi, who you won’t find on any top-30 prospect lists, is just a future reliever. Maybe the main driver of this deal was that unlike Jon Perrin, he happens to have another two years until he needs to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Or, maybe the “ingredients” are indeed there for Sal Biasi to turn into more. Maybe his track record of pitching multiple innings means he can stretch out to be a starter. Maybe the org can help him improve the bite on his curveball a bit, and perhaps he learns the signature Milwaukee splitter to give him a three-pitch mix. Maybe the Brewers have some sort of biomechanical analysis that will help him thrive even with fringe to below-average command grades, like Guerra and Chacin and Peralta before him.
The “maybes” are the fun part about dreaming on prospects. Now all we have to do is watch how things play out.