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Opening Day Countdown: Wily Peralta #38

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New and different way to say we're closer to spring training! Wily Peralta jersey number.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

What is Wily Peralta? I mean, we know he's a Milwaukee Brewer. We know he's a pitcher. And we even know he's guaranteed to be one of the five starting pitchers the Brewers take into the regular season. But what kind of pitcher is he really? I thought I knew. But now I'm not so sure. This season is going to be a big one for him in answering that question.

When Peralta first came up with the Brewers there was a lot of excitement. The pitching prospect pool had pretty much dried up at that point. And the season Peralta made his major league debut he ranked in Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. He was generally in the 50-65 range with each of them in both 2012 and 2013.

I think he might have become a victim of his own success in that first partial season with the Brewers. He only pitched in 29 innings, but his ERA and FIP were 2.48 and 2.65. It doesn't matter how much you explain small sample size to a person who doesn't want to listen. A lot of people dubbed Peralta the Brewers next ace, when really they should have been expecting something closer to a solid mid rotation innings eater, perhaps with the upside of a No. 2. And that's what we tried to tell be people then. That's also what we tried to tell people after his relatively disappointing 2013 campaign.

In his first full season with the Brewers he made 32 starts, throwing 183.1 innings. But he logged a 4.37 ERA and 4.30 FIP. Oh how people jumped ship. It wasn't a very good year for him, I'll admit. But I think a lot people don't realize how often young players struggle making the transition to the majors. He still looked like the same pitcher to me.

The following season saw slight improvements: 32 starts, 198.2 innings, 3.53 ERA, 4.11 FIP. His strike out and walk rates improved from 2013 to 2014 as well: 16.1 K% to 18.4 K%; 9.1 BB% to 7.1 BB%. So it looked like he was on a good path to become that solid mid-rotation innings eater at least. Unfortunately he took another step back in 2015.

He was beset by an intercostal strain and missed significant playing time. He only made 20 starts, where each of the previous two seasons he started 32 games. In 108.2 innings he had a 4.72 ERA and 4.84 FIP. His K% dropped to 12.6%. His walk rate remained a reasonable 7.7% which is exactly league average. So at least he didn't lose ground there.

The velocity dipped a bit to an average of 94.3 mph. But that's not far off from his career average of 95.1. It might also have been related to his injury. Still, if he experiences more velocity decline it could become a problem.

So who is Wily Peralta? Was last year just an injury related fluke? Was it a real step backwards? And if it was, will he be able to reverse course? I'm not sure I know the answers to those questions. But I do know that 2016 is going to be one of the most important seasons in Peralta's career. Here's hoping we look back on it as the year he finally put it all together.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs