SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 09: Relief pitcher Wily Peralta #73 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 9, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It's been over a week since we last saw Wily Peralta make his debut with the Brewers, pitching one inning on 4/22 against the Colorado Rockies. One inning is nowhere near enough to make any fair observations about Peralta's pitch selection tendencies or the relative strength of each of his pitches. However, we can get at least a preliminary look at his arsenal.
Generally, starting pitcher prospects tend to lean on their fastball heavily when they are called up and asked to pitch major league innings in relief. They also tend to throw harder than they would normally average over the course of a normal start due their short stint (and also adrenaline to some extent, I'm sure). 13 of the 17 pitches Peralta threw in his debut were fastballs, they averaged 95.2 and one hit 96.5, and three topping the 96 mph mark. Peralta tends to work closer to the 92-94 as a starter, but it's reassuring to know that he has 96 if he needs it.
Peralta also threw four breaking balls in his inning, 3 curves and a slider. The curve's obvious comparison is to Yovani Gallardo, he throws it about a mile per hour slower, and it looks to be a bit less of of a 12-6 curve than Yovani's, tending to move away just a bit more from a righthanded batter. He also gave us a brief glance at his slider, a pretty nasty 85 mph pitch that you'd have to figure he'd work in more in something other than a 1-inning role.
Unfortunately, Wily did give up 3 hits and a run in his inning. He pumped fastballs to the first batter he faced, Dexter Fowler. His first two pitches were fastballs near 94 mph, and he missed the zone with each. He then threw a fastball at 93 down the middle, but it was fouled off. His fourth pitch missed well low at 96, and the final pitch of the at-bat was 95 and right down the middle, and Fowler hit it for a single.
That sort of at-bat is understandable for a rookie looking to impress his management enough to show them he deserves a shot as the fifth starter in the MLB rotation. One MLB inning should not be necessary to show Doug Melvin that Peralta should be plugged into the rotation by July at the latest. He's pitched twice since going back down. First came an unremarkable start in which he went 5 innings, gave up 5 runs, struck out 5 and walked 4. Then, two nights ago, he threw 7 innings, struck out 8, walked 2, gave up just two runs, and did it all on 86 pitches.
The fact that the Brewers are skipping Marco Estrada's spot in the rotation leads me to believe they do not consider him the year-long answer as a replacement for Chris Narveson. Estrada is a fine pitcher but if the Brewers want a shot at contention they are going to have to take some risks and go with Peralta at some point. I have a hunch that Doug Melvin agrees. I feel that Peralta is going to stick with the Nashville Sounds through May and probably much of June, continuing to work on his command. Staying at Nashville also will give them a chance to keep closely watch his workload; Peralta threw 150 innings in 2011 and it would be a shame if he excelled with the Brewers only to have to be shut down in September.
I am confident that Marco Estrada can hold down the 5th starter spot for a few more weeks, but it's clear to me that Peralta is very, very close to being ready. Don't forget his name, because I would guess that we will see a lot of him in the coming months.