Miami's top prospect learning from All-Star mentor
Miami ace Sandy Alcantara is considered one of the best pitchers in baseball these days. In the not-so-distant future, Marlins top prospect Eury Pérez could join that conversation.
Pérez, who will be part of the National League's roster for Saturday's 2022 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Dodger Stadium, is dominating Double-A competition more than five years older than him. He considers Alcantara like an older brother, growing closer to the two-time All-Star since this past Spring Training. When Major League and Minor League camp overlapped, Alcantara took Pérez and other young players out to eat several times and offered valuable advice.
"'Continue working more than anybody else on the team, always continue working even though there's going to be situations that might go bad,'" Pérez said of Alcantara's advice via an interpreter. "'You have to maintain the hard work and focus on what you want to do.' I normally text him, he texts me back, and I post about him a lot because I also admire him a lot."
The feeling is mutual. The 26-year-old Alcantara sees quite a bit of himself in the 19-year-old Pérez, who was the youngest pitcher named to the annual showcase event of the sport's top prospects. Both hail from the Dominican Republic -- Alcantara from the south in Azua, Pérez from the north in Santiago.
Since signing for $200,000 in 2019, Pérez has grown four inches and 45 pounds to 6-foot-8 and 220. He is one of the few people who can tower over the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Alcantara, who was once a highly regarded prospect.
"He's great," Alcantara said. "I met him a couple years ago, and he's got great stuff. We're always talking on the phone. I try to call him sometimes. He texts me sometimes. He's just got to keep competing, keep being himself. He's going to be here soon."
At this rate, Alcantara's statement wouldn't be hyperbole. In 2021, Pérez compiled a 1.96 ERA, a .158 opponents' average and 106 strikeouts against 26 walks in 78 innings while reaching High-A Beloit in his professional debut. The Marlins then tested him with a Double-A Pensacola assignment to start his second pro season.
Somehow, Pérez has been just as impressive -- if not better considering the challenge -- in 2022. Through 13 starts with the Blue Wahoos, he has a 0.90 WHIP and 87 strikeouts across 62 innings. That has catapulted Pérez to No. 15 overall in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list.
"I think we had pretty high expectations for him," said Hector Crespo, the Marlins' director of Minor League operations. "Any time a 19-year-old is performing like that in Double-A, it's always pretty amazing to see. Coming into Spring Training, we were hoping he came in shape and ready to go, and he did that. We were hopeful. I wouldn't say exceeded -- he's met our expectations because we had such high expectations for him."
Despite those numbers, Pérez isn't resting on his laurels. He expects more from himself as a competitor. He expects greatness. Crespo found the mentorship between Pérez and Alcantara intriguing because it shows Pérez wants to work and get better.
"[My] main goal will be to maintain my ERA lower than three [it is currently at 3.05]," Pérez said. "That's a big one, but somewhere there in the twos will be good. Also 200 combined strikeouts, adding from last season, and then just try to maintain a low amount of walks."
According to MLB Pipeline, Pérez displayed a mid-80s fastball when the Marlins first scouted him. It increased to 91-95 mph during instructs in 2020 and operated at 93-96 mph last season, topping out at 98 mph. There could be more in the tank as he builds muscle and possibly continues to grow. The shape, running action and induced vertical break on his heater could make it a plus-plus offering when he's a finished product.
To complement the fastball, Pérez owns a pair of promising secondary pitches. His mid-80s changeup features some fade and tumble and grades as plus more consistently than an upper-70s curveball that he lands for strikes.
"He was always a high-velocity, fastball-command guy, and now he's got two or three plus pitches to go along with that arsenal," Crespo said. "The sky's the limit for this one."
During the lockout, Pérez noted that it was Alcantara's changeup he wishes he had in his repertoire more than any other pitch thrown in the Marlins' organization. That offering has a -12 run value -- best in the Majors -- so far this season.
"He's talking about my stuff, talking about my changeup and my two-seam," Alcantara said. "I think he wants to learn how I throw my changeup. We're going to have time next Spring Training. I think he's going to be there with us. I'm going to take care of him."