Traditionally, a good starting pitcher possesses all three of the following traits:
- Blazing fastball
- Three or four pitch mix
- Clothes from the “big and tall” store
Freddy Peralta has none of these qualities. His fastball averages 90.7 miles per hour, and he primarily throws just one other pitch. He’s listed at just five-foot, eleven inches and 175 pounds. All the same, the Brewers’ rookie hurler could be baseball’s next ace.
Peralta has already enjoyed success at the major league level. He spent much of 2018 in the Brewers’ rotation, starting 14 games and throwing 78 1⁄3 innings. He featured an impressive 29.9 percent strikeout rate— 11th best in baseball among starting pitchers (minimum 70 innings). His FIP- of 90 indicates that he’s already 10 percent better than league average.
Strikeouts are cool, but Peralta’s control leaves something to be desired. The only two starting pitchers in baseball with higher walk rates than his 12.9 percent were Tyler Chatwood and Robbie Ray. He’ll need to limit the free passes going forward.
Peralta is also an extreme fly ball pitcher. He was one of just 17 pitchers last year to allow a launch angle of at least 20 degrees. Given this proclivity, he does limit home runs fairly well. He gave up eight dingers in 2018, resulting in a fairly low 9.4 home run-to-fly ball ratio.
Copious strikeouts and walks are consistent with his minor league performance as well. Across five levels from 2017-2018 (including MLB), he posted a combined 32.8 percent strikeout rate against an 11.9 percent walk rate.
He’s succeeded with a low contact profile thus far, and his triple-A numbers are even more incredible. He posted a 2.48 FIP at the highest level of the minors. Somehow, he only gave up one triple-A home run despite his high fly ball rate. Furthermore, he did so while playing home games at Colorado Springs— possibly the most extreme hitter-friendly ballpark in organized baseball! (The Brewers are moving their triple-A operation to San Antonio next season, and Colorado Springs will be a Rookie League site going forward).
Peralta throws just two pitches with regularity. He lives and dies with his fastball, which he throws 77.7 percent of the time. Batters produced a .297 wOBA and .294 xwOBA against the offering, which tops out around 95 and generally stays in the low 90s.
Depending on which scouting report you read, his breaking ball is sometimes called a slider and other times a curve. Lacking certainty, we’ll just call it a slurve. He throws it for 19.5 percent of his pitches, using it fairly equally against both righty and lefty batters. Opponents posted a .220 wOBA and .289 xwOBA against it. He also mixes in a changeup from time to time, which comprised just 2.8 percent of his pitches.
Peralta relies on an unorthodox delivery to help his pitches play up. As per Baseball Savant, “Peralta makes up for being an undersized righty by generating enormous extension to plate.” FanGraphs prospect writer Eric Longenhagen summarized Peralta in his June 28 chat:
“Love Freddy, but still think the command is going to be an issue. Also, remember a large part of what makes him effective is the unique release point, which at some point will start to yield diminishing returns as it gets seen. Still think he’ll be good, but as more of a 1.5 to 2 WAR.”
Let’s check out that release point in action, first with the fastball:
Now the breaking pitch:
How about both at once!
Peralta releases a lot closer to the plate than a typical 5’11 pitcher, enhancing his effective velocity. He also appears to hide the ball deep into his motion, which prevents the batter from picking it up quickly. As batters face him multiple times, they’ll adjust, but for the time being it’s a significant advantage.
Peralta still has work to do before joining baseball’s elite pitchers. The strikeouts are already there, and that’s the biggest part. If he can cut down on walks and continue to keep batters in the yard at a reasonable rate, he could have a long, successful career. If he continues to develop his changeup and rely less on the fastball, that might benefit him even more.
These are very big ifs—pitching is really hard! No matter, he’s already a pretty good pitcher and there’s room to grow.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983