The time is right for the Braves to test Perez and their other young starters
As Williams Perez completed five strong innings during Wednesday night’s win over the Rays, I was forced to at least reassess my thought that he might not necessarily be an upgrade over Eric Stults in the starting rotation.
But even if my initial reservations about Perez are validated over his next few outings, I think it is safe to say there really wasn’t any reason for the Braves to continue sending Stults to the mound once every five days at the expense of not gaining a sense in what they truly have in Perez and some of their other top pitching prospects.
As things currently stand, the Braves have seven legit candidates — Shelby Miller, Alex Wood, Mike Foltynewicz, Julio Teheran, Manny Banuelos, Matt Wisler and Perez — for their 2016 starting rotation. Tyrell Jenkins, who has surrendered two runs or less in six of his first eight starts for Double-A Mississippi, might also factor into this mix.
While it has often been said that you can never have enough starting pitching, the Braves will have the attractive option to trade at least one of these hurlers in attempt to satisfy their glaring need to acquire a power-hitting outfielder.
So, it only makes sense to spend the next few weeks and months taking advantage of every opportunity they have to learn what they truly have in Perez, Wisler and Banuelos.
If Perez proves successful in Atlanta’s rotation, the Braves would have the option to continue being patient with Wisler, who had produced three consecutive strong starts for Triple-A Gwinnett before allowing four runs in six innings against Toledo last night.
The Braves are also closely monitoring the progress made by Banuelos, who has allowed less than two earned runs in six of the eight starts he has made for Gwinnett. Banuelos’ candidacy for a spot in Atlanta’s rotation is influenced by the fact that he will likely be limited to approximately just 80 more innings (approximately 14-15 more starts) the remainder of this season — because he totaled just 76 1/3 innings when he returned from Tommy John surgery last year.
Though Perez stands as the least-heralded member of this trio from a prospect standpoint, he certainly legitimized his candidacy for a long-standing rotation spot while surrendering one run and notching seven strikeouts against the Rays Wednesday night. He escaped a few jams during the 79-pitch outing and most importantly showed that his secondary pitches — curveball and changeup — have the potential to be effective at the Major League level.
Before yesterday’s start, a Major League scout said that Perez “tips his pitches as much as any pitcher I have ever seen.” This will be something to monitor as clubs develop a book on him over the next few starts. But the Rays didn’t seem to detect anything revealing.
Perez utilized his sinker with 70.9 percent (56 of 79) of the pitches he threw last night. He induced a swing-and-miss with five of the 13 changeups he threw and with four of the nine curveballs he displayed. The curveball concluded three of his strikeouts and the changeup concluded two others.
We’ve seen far too many Kyle Davies’ pass through this town to be fooled by a starting pitcher’s instant success. But I will at least say, that it does make much more sense to provide Perez with this opportunity, even if he doesn’t end up being much more effective than Stults would have been.