As the Brewers transition into their next era of young talent, some players who have been with the organization for years have seen the writing on the wall and elected to become minor league free agents. On Tuesday, we told you about Michael Blazek, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and David Goforth making the decision to move on.
But according to Jim Goulart, there was a fourth player to decide his tenure with the Brewers was over -- former top prospect Wily Peralta.
Add Wily Peralta to official early minor league free agent list, he declared on Tue., had been a Brewer since 2005 https://t.co/GLPSASgcjd— Jim Goulart (@Mass_Haas) October 4, 2017
It may be easy to forget, but in the years following the 2011 postseason run, Peralta was the next big Brewers prospect. Baseball America rated him as the organization's top player for two years in a row, in 2012 and 2013. On that 2012 list, he beat out future quality big leaguers in Tyler Thornburg (4th), Scooter Gennett (5th) and Jimmy Nelson (10th). The next year, Thornburg moved up to 2nd and Nelson 5th, but Peralta remained the clear top prospect in the organization.
You might be tempted to respond with "Yeah, but the organization was a wasteland after the Greinke and Marcum trades," and you wouldn't be totally wrong. But Peralta was also a unanimous Top-100 prospect in baseball those years -- Baseball America ranked him 56th and 69th those years, MLB.com had him 49th and 64th, and Baseball Prospectus put him at 92nd and 68th. He was a legitimate starting pitching prospect.
The early returns were good, too. Debuting at the age of 23, Peralta made 6 appearances in 2012, allowing just 8 runs in 29 innings. He made the team out of spring training in 2013 and put up a decent rookie season, making 32 starts with a 4.37 ERA/4.30 FIP, although he struggle with walks, giving 73 free passes in 183.1 innings. He also threw two complete games, the first time a Brewer had done that in several seasons.
2014 was what everyone thought would be his breakout campaign. He was given credit for 17 wins that year, putting up a 3.53 ERA, cutting down his walks to 2.8 per 9 innings, and posting an ERA+ of 107. At just 25 years old that season, the Brewers thought they might have a developing top of the rotation starter.
They didn't, as we know now. The next two seasons in the rotation were disasters, including the decision in 2016 to make him the Opening Day starter despite never really earning the nod in Spring Training. After back-to-back years of 32 starts, he'd go on to make just 51 more in the next three years.
Peralta's time with the Brewers crashed and burned this season. Starting the year in the rotation, Peralta actually put together three solid-to-good starts to start the year -- including 5 shutout innings over eventual NL Wildcard Colorado in the season's first series. He followed that up with a quality start in Toronto and another in Cincinnati, where he allowed just 2 runs over 6 innings.
After that, the wheels fell off. He allowed 6 runs on 9 hits in St. Louis, 4 runs on 8 hits to Cincinnati, then rebounded for a 2-run, 5.1 inning outing against the Cardinals before putting up back-to-back 4.1 inning outings that got him pulled from the rotation.
As was always the case with Wily, he had visually appealing stuff -- a 95 mph fastball with sink, a decent breaking pitch -- but struggled with command and got rocked the second and third time through the order. There was some hope that his stuff would play up in a relief role, allowing him to add a couple ticks on his fastball and not have to worry about working deep into games. Bullpen Wily was born with plenty of optimism -- maybe the Brewers finally found a role to salvage some value, those of us who held onto his old promise told ourselves.
Bullpen Wily was an even bigger disaster. A starter his entire career, Peralta struggled to warm up quickly in the bullpen. His mechanical iffiness made it dangerous to bring him into the middle of an inning with runners on base, limiting him to starting new innings. The bullpen debut went well -- 5 strikeouts over 2 hitless innings against the Cubs on May 19th -- but that would be the last time he put up a clean inning. As a reliever, Peralta was shellacked for an 11.94 ERA, allowing 23 runs in 17.1 innings, striking out 20 but walking 15.
To be fair to Wily, most of that damage came in his last big league appearance -- the game Michael Blazek started in Washington, giving up 6 home runs in 1.2 innings. Peralta was called on to soak up as many innings as possible and, like Blazek, was left to die on the mound. He wound up giving up 7 more runs on 8 hits -- but hey, only 2 home runs -- in 1.2 innings.
After that outing, it was clear the Brewers didn't see a future for Peralta. They sent him down to Triple-A to "work on things," but the organization never seriously entertained the idea of bringing him back up, even when they were desperately looking to fill innings in bullpen games in September. Peralta finished the year with a 3.38 ERA in 13 games for Colorado Springs, all relief appearances.
Peralta will still only be 29 years old next year. Despite the catastrophic season, it's probably a safe bet that an organization that has nothing to lose and a history of rehabilitating ruined pitching prospects -- say, the Chicago White Sox -- could take a chance on him this winter and give him another opportunity to get back to the major leagues.
He'll most likely be remembered by Brewers fans for the way his time in Milwaukee ended, and -- like guys like Manny Parra before him -- the prospect hype he failed to live up to. Always beware the pitching prospect.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference