Marlins' Eury Pérez could be angling for a promotion after this start

May 3rd, 2023

If a season-high 11 strikeouts in five innings is any indication, Eury Pérez looks like he's ready to leave Double-A behind.

The Marlins' top prospect -- No. 11 overall, according to MLB Pipeline -- allowed one run on two hits and a walk as Pensacola topped Mississippi, 2-1, on Tuesday.

The outing lowered Pérez's ERA to 2.52 across 25 innings, and he's struck out at least five in each of his five starts this season. It's an impressive beginning to the year after he struck out 110 while amassing a 3.97 ERA in 77 innings across two levels last year.

"He had his best fastball command that I’ve seen out of him in the year-plus that I’ve had him, and of course, that sets up everything else," Blue Wahoos pitching coach Dave Eiland said after the game. "That’s saying a lot as well as he pitched last year. Just as far as the way he uses his pitches, the way he’s commanding them all, the way they all complement one another. That’s what you want to see in a young pitcher, a young prospect. Tonight, he was really good."

Pérez started off with a six-pitch walk to Cal Conley to open the game and the Braves' No. 13 prospect promptly stole second. But after inducing a soft groundout, the No. 3 right-handed pitching prospect proceeded to strike out the next four batters -- all swinging. Pérez also fanned five straight between the fourth and fifth innings.

The Dominican native utilized all four of his pitches, getting three strikeouts on breaking balls in the dirt, two K's on changeups away to lefties, and six punchouts on fastballs, often up in the zone. His slider, Eiland said, wasn't quite as sharp but still kept batters off balance, as evidenced by three of his strikeouts coming on checked swings.

"The pitch package that he has ... he has a lot of weapons and there are a lot of areas and pitches hitters need to cover," Eiland said. "A lot of that is because they’re geared up for 99 [mph]. The hitters are just unsure of themselves and guessing a lot. That’s a lot for a hitter to cover, anywhere from 83 to 100, different shapes to the pitches, different areas where he goes with the ball. When you have that type of equipment, that’s what you get."

Pérez's lone mistake was a 2-2 fastball left over the plate in the fifth, which Mississippi's Arden Pabst sent over the left-field fence. It was the fourth home run he's allowed this season, although Pensacola eventually overcame the deficit by scoring two runs on a fielder's choice and a throwing error with two outs in the ninth.

Eiland wasn't too concerned about the home run, though, and was proud of how the righty bounced back. The pitching coach noted how much better the righty is at adjusting during games -- even at his young age. Pérez turned 20 two weeks ago and is the second-youngest player at Double-A, more than four years younger than the average player.

"Probably the bigger thing for me is when he gets a little bit off in-game, his slot might get a little low, his front side might come off-line," Eiland said. "He recognizes it now, which he didn’t last year, and he’s able to self-correct on the mound without me having to go out and remind him or tell him the adjustment he needs to make. ... That’s a very positive sign and a sign that tells you this kid is about ready. That’s what big league pitchers do."

Pérez's 11 strikeouts were one short of the career high he set last April 29 in his fourth start for the Blue Wahoos. And he's come quite a long way in his 22 Double-A starts. Eiland still wants him to build up his pitch count -- he has yet to go above 90 pitches or six innings as a pro and isn't yet pitching every five days -- but thinks he is about ready for his next challenge.

"It’s not my place to really say, but for me, he’s ready to move, whenever the organization and the decision-makers decide," Eiland said. "But as far as the quality of his pitches, the way he repeats his delivery, for me, he can pitch at the highest level right now. … The equipment is certainly there, the pitch package is there, the talent and the ability, all of that."