Originally marketed in the Dominican Republic as an outfielder with raw tools, the Brewers quickly converted Wily Peralta into a pitcher soon after signing him at the age of sixteen. After Tommy John surgery wiped out 2007, Peralta threw thirty-four innings between the Pioneer League and the South Atlantic League in 2008. The following season, Peralta made fifteen starts and twenty-seven appearances in the Midwest League where he struck out 118 over 104 innings and allowed 91 hits but walked 46.
In 2010 and 2011, Peralta continued to progress over stops in Brevard County, Huntsville, and Nashville. In 2010 Peralta made significant progress with his durability post surgery by throwing 147.1 innings. While Wily walked about three and a half batters per nine innings in 2010 and 2011, he compiled 157 strikeouts and surrendered only 127 hits over 150.2 innings pitched in 2011. Peralta spent most of 2012 in the Pacific Coast League where he statistically struggled over 146.2 innings by allowing 154 hits and 78 walks while striking out 143. His WHIP and ERA in the Pacific Coast League were 1.58 and 4.66 in 2012. Despite his struggles at AAA, the Brewers promoted Peralta to Milwaukee for five starts in September.
This winter I watched each of Peralta’s five starts for Milwaukee on my television using a combination of mlb.com and Apple TV. Peralta features a fastball that clocks in at 94 to 98 miles per hour. He locates his fastball well within the bottom of the strike zone at times featuring just enough sinking action to induce swings that missed or weak contact. The velocity and location allows Peralta to sometimes blow his fastball right past hitters. Although Peralta’s change-up was often straight, his breaking stuff was diverse, generally effective, and often sharp. Against the Marlins in his Major League debut as a starter, Peralta struck out Donnie Murphy swinging twice with a true slider that broke late and sharply just out of the zone outside and low. Facing Jason Heyward, the velocity drop off from his fastball to an average slider offering was enough to induce a swing and a miss for a third strike. Wily’s best version of his breaking pitch featured movement that was both downward and armside. If the break was not as big as it was I would have figured it was a change up. Game Day on mlb.com labeled this pitch as a slider. He used it with great effectiveness for called third strikes against Chipper Jones and Todd Frazier. In his five starts, Peralta did not give up any homers and minimal solid contact. In three starts Peralta only permitted one walk in each. He did allow four walks in his first major league start in Miami and in a brief start against the vaunted Nationals lineup in Washington. The bottom line is that Peralta had better then expected command, a great fastball and very good breaking stuff. Peralta is athletic and has good instincts allowing him to defend his position well.
Watching Peralta pitch for the Brewers, one cannot help but be impressed. Peralta, listed as 6’2” and 240 pounds, will be able to maintain and develop velocity and durability at that general size with proper conditioning. Indeed, based on a recent tweet it seems that Peralta’s conditioning is going just fine this winter in the Dominican Republic. After watching all of Wily Peralta’s big league starts, there is reason to be very optimistic about his prospects going into the 2013 baseball season. Peralta benefited from being matched up in each of his five starts with the young catcher Martin Maldonado who caught Peralta in both Nashville and Huntsville. Maldonado helped Peralta by throwing out base runners and the two appeared to have a good rapport. Peralta will be one of the favorites to win National League Rookie of the Year. While Peralta might be a 3 for most of his career, he could reach the ceiling of a 2 for a few seasons.