Martin Perez to AA.

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Since May
28
, in my weekly column for MLB.com I have judged someone other than
Neftali Feliz to be the Rangers’ number one pitching prospect. 

 

Lefthander Martin Perez – the Jerry West of the Newberg
Report email banner – is three years younger than Feliz, but he’s about to make
the same move that Feliz made just one year ago.

 

According to a press release just issued by the Hickory
Crawdads, the Rangers are promoting Perez from the Low
A club to AA.  He’s on his way to Frisco,
skipping High A Bakersfield.  The youngest pitcher in
the South Atlantic League is about to become the youngest player in the Texas League

– by about two full years.

 

While Perez doesn’t flash Feliz’s radar gun readings, the
18-year-old’s complementary offerings are more polished (certainly at a similar
stage in development).  He takes a plus (mid-90s) fastball, plus curve, plus
change, and an advanced idea to the hill, evoking comparisons (frequent, if
unfair) to fellow Venezuelan Johan Santana.  Texas has carefully managed Perez’s
workload with Hickory this year, prompting one opposing manager to tell Baseball
America
last week (as Perez checked in at number 10 on BA‘s weekly
“Hot Sheet”): “I’m glad he’s on that pitch count, because he’s scary.
 That helps everyone out a lot.”

 

That manager will be extra-happy this morning.

 

In Perez’s last 10 Crawdads appearances, he’s 3-1 with a
1.35 ERA, posting 45 strikeouts and 12 walks in 40 innings, having allowed 35
hits (.230 opponents’ batting average; one home run).  Overall, he’s at
5-5, 2.31 in 14 starts and six relief appearances spanning 93.2 innings, with
these numbers: 82 hits (.236), three home runs, 33 walks, 105 strikeouts, 1.58
groundout-to-flyout rate.  It’s not all that different from Feliz’s Low A
line with Clinton last year: 6-3, 2.52 in 17 starts spanning 82 innings, 55
hits (.193), two home runs, 28 walks, 106 strikeouts, 1.64 G/F.  Feliz was
nearly as dominant in his 10 AA starts, and it won’t surprise me if Perez
competes at the AA level right away – even though, again, Feliz was 20 when he
arrived in Frisco, and Perez is just 18.

 

Back on July 10 (and several more times over the following
three weeks), I wrote this: “For [Roy]
Halladay, I’d give up Feliz or Smoak, but not both.  Derek Holland and
Martin Perez are untouchable, for me.”  Texas named Perez its Minor League Pitcher
of the Month for July yesterday, but today’s announcement is a much bigger
deal.

 

The RoughRiders are on the road – in Tulsa for three and NW Arkansas for three -
before returning to Frisco for series against the same two clubs from August
19-24.  If Perez (who pitched just one inning on Friday) stays on a
five-day schedule, he’ll start against the Drillers tomorrow night.

 

To assume that Perez will stay on the same developmental
path as Feliz and reach Arlington
in 2010 is probably a stretch given his age, but he’s taken big steps this year
and the organization has now taken one itself with the blue-chip
lefthander.  It won’t be too long before he’s wearing the cap and colors
that you see him in at the top of every Newberg Report email.

 

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