Slingin' David Stearns has shown that he is willing to deal just about anyone so far during his short tenure as Brewers' General Manager. His mantra of bringing in young, controllable talent has already shown through in the six trades he's made since the season ended, and there has been no indication that he is done wheeling and dealing this winter. As the cost for pitching on the free agent market continues to rise, there has been an increased premium placed on controllable pitching on the trade market. That could perhaps make big Wily Peralta and interesting trade target for other teams around the game.
The Brewers signed Wily Peralta way back in 2005 as a 16 year old amateur out of the Dominican Republic. He underwent Tommy John surgery as a teenager in 2007 but that hardly slowed his steady ascent through the Brewers' minor league system. He reached AAA for the first time in 2011 as a 22 year old and began the 2012 season ranked as a consensus top-100 prospect. Peralta made his major league debut that season, making on start in April before getting the call in September to finish out the season in the major league rotation. Altogether he posted a 2.48 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 29.0 innings in the show, striking out 23 batters and walking 11.
Peralta again entered 2013 as a consensus top 100 prospect but this time was handed a spot in Milwaukee's opening day starting rotation. His first season in the major leagues was an inconsistent one, as he showed flashes of brilliance while also battling his command and his emotions on the mound. He finished with a 4.37 ERA in 183.1 innings pitched. Despite possessing a fastball capable of hitting the upper 90s, Peralta struck out a below-average 16.1% of hitters while walking 9.1%.
Many were still hoping to see a breakout from big Wily after his middling rookie campaign, and 2014 provided a glimpse of what Peralta is capable of when everything is going right. He appeared made significant progress with his walk rate, cutting it down to 7.3%, coupled with a nice uptick in his strikeout rate to 18.4%. The de facto "ace" of the Brewers staff pitched 198.2 innings with a strong 3.53 ERA and finished fifth in the National League with 17 wins. A look at Peralta's peripherals, namely a 4.11 FIP and a 4.20 Deserved Run Average, suggested however that he was the beneficiary of some good fortune and that there was a regression in order.
That regression hit hard in 2015. Peralta battled his health all year long, missing almost all of June and July with a strained oblique that flared up again in September and cost him his final couple of starts of the season. He managed to make only 20 starts and pitch 108.2 innings, and he wasn't very effective when he was on the mound. His walk rate stayed mostly steady at 7.7% but his strikeout rate plummeted to 12.6%. He experienced a "dead-arm phase" during a couple of starts and lost more than a mile-per-hour on his average fastball from 2014 (though he still averaged a plus 94.3 MPH). It all added up to a 4.72 ERA and an even worse 4.84 FIP and 5.85 DRA. By Baseball Prospectus' WARP rating, Peralta was one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball in 2015 and was more than a win below the level of a replacement pitcher.
Despite his big velocity, Peralta's never been much of a strikeout pitcher in the major or minor leagues. Instead he relies on inducing gobs of ground balls, which he has gotten at a 52.3% rate throughout his three year big league career. According to Brooks Baseball he relies heavily on his fastball, sinker, and slider, combining to throw those three pitches around 94% of the time. Peralta's slider has consistently rated as well-above average (prior to 2015) but the lack of another trustworthy off-speed pitch has left him susceptible to a significant platoon split, and lefties have hit him to the tune of a .284/.347/.456 slash during his time in the show.
There's still hope that Big Wily can recover his 2014 form, of course. He still throws quite hard but relying so heavily on pitching to contact tends to lead to inconsistent results, especially with the Brewers' porous defense behind him. Peralta does throw a changeup, though he uses it rarely and threw it just 5.8% of the time in 2015. Pitch F/X valued the pitch at 1.4 runs above average last year, however, perhaps suggesting that it would behoove Peralta to use the pitch more often. It would definitely give him a weapon to help reduce his platoon split against left handers and another off-speed pitch would offer a much different look than his usual sinker-slider combination, which could help Wily generate more swings-and-misses. Throwing up in the zone (a la Mike Fiers) more often with his hard four-seam fastball might also help change the eye-level of hitters and cause more whiffs, as his constant low-and-away approach can become predictable on the mound.
With just over three years of big league service time, Peralta is eligible for arbitration for the first time this season and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to take home a very reasonable $2.8 mil payday. Though he has three years of relatively inexpensive club control remaining, the 26 year old Peralta may not be around long enough to see the Brewers' next competitive window. The way that the club has operated this winter in bringing in more lower-level minor leaguers leads me to believe that there is not a rigid window on this rebuilding effort, meaning that the 2017-2018 time frame that many fans have settled on in their minds might be pushed back another couple of years. Given the Brewers' plethora of right handed pitching depth and their reported desire to add more via the free agent market, that could make Big Wily expendable.
As far as speculative fits go, the Houston Astros are known to be on the lookout for more starting pitching depth. The Dodgers' rotation is full of questions (mostly health related) behind Clayton Kershaw, and the Yankees could probably use some rotation depth, as well. Just about every contending team could always use more pitching. There's no rush to trade Wily Peralta, of course, given that he is coming off of a down season. But if the Brewers can sell him to a team as a bounce-back candidate who is capable of soaking up quality innings in the middle of starting rotation, the return could be a pretty good one.