Eury, Sandy inseparable as top prospect learns from ace

February 16th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- It's hard not to mistake Marlins top prospect Eury Pérez for ace 's shadow these days. Since the offseason, wherever Alcantara goes, so goes Pérez. Whatever Alcantara does, so does Pérez.

Alcantara taking Pérez under his wing is no coincidence considering his potential. That mentorship continued on Thursday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, where they played catch, threw a bullpen session and did six rounds of a full-body workout -- a daily routine Alcantara credits to his success

"What can I say? Sandy's an unbelievable pitcher, he's a Cy Young winner," Pérez said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "That's the ultimate goal as well, right? So I just want to go out there, compete and get on the big league level, and continue working really hard. Working with Sandy, he got me very strong. Working on my delivery, working the whole offseason with him was great, and hopefully we can work on the Major League level as well."

During a mid-January workout that Pérez couldn't make because he was sick, Alcantara spoke about the pitcher they endearingly nicknamed "Pequeña Jirafa" (baby giraffe). Not many people tower over Alcantara (6-foot-5), but Pérez (6-foot-8) is the exception. Alcantara sees his younger self in Pérez, so Alcantara is hoping to teach him his ways and speed up Pérez's development.

"He's a little bit skinny," Alcantara said. "He needs to be a little bit more strong, but he's going to be there. He wants to be [in the big leagues] one day. You've got to start here. You've got to be up and up. He's started getting there. He's 19. He's taller than everybody here. Hopefully he can stop growing up. He just needs a little bit more weight. He's going to be fine."

This marks the first Major League Spring Training for Pérez, who turns 20 on April 15. He found a familiar face behind the dish for Thursday's bullpen session: Paul McIntosh, who caught some of his starts at Double-A Pensacola in 2022. Pérez's 35-pitch side looked "really good," per McIntosh. MLB Pipeline's No. 13 overall prospect put the ball to both sides of the plate, only yanking a couple of changeups.

"How big he is and his ability to move the way that he moves," McIntosh said of what's most impressive about Pérez. "Not many guys that are 6'8" can move like that and throw the ball the way that they can, but it was pretty cool to catch him last year."

Despite Pérez's age and inexperience -- 2022 was his second professional season -- he expected a non-roster invitation this spring. With Alcantara, Johnny Cueto and Jesús Luzardo scheduled to compete in the World Baseball Classic, Pérez and No. 7 prospect Dax Fulton will receive opportunities to pitch in Grapefruit League games.

"At some point, one or a couple of those names are going to help impact some games for us," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. "It's some good arms, some guys with some great stuff that are getting ready for the next challenge. And we're going to see them early in spring. You'll see those guys make starts and get outings rather quickly."

Eury Pérez throwing a bullpen session in 2023 Spring TrainingChristina De Nicola

Like everyone else inside the clubhouse, Pérez's goal is to make the Opening Day roster. While that seems rather unlikely considering the current roster, Pérez can leave an impression and force the issue with a strong start to 2023. It's a matter of "when," not “if,” he arrives in The Show.

"Now that I'm here, all I want to do is enjoy every day," Pérez said. "Enjoy this time with my teammates and try to find a spot in the big league roster. I think I'm ready. I feel ready. I believe probably a little more experience I will need to obtain and face more experienced hitters. Some of that stuff will help me as well. I think I probably have to gain a little more weight, so I can maintain myself in the game a little longer and [gain] more stamina. Looking forward for the team to make a decision."