TCN 2015 Cardinals Prospect #40: Juan Perez

This year’s top 40 kicks off with a relatively-unknown 19-year-old Appalachian League pitcher from Venezuela.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

Home: San Felipe, Venezuela

2014 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
NR RHS 07,22,95 6-2 195 R R 2011 FA

Selected 2014 stats

JC 5 3 3.24 4.15 13 10 0 58.1 48 21 5 27 59 0.225 1.00 0.277

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (NR): The community did not have any votes for Juan Perez during the number 40 discussion. Looking back, it seems I was the only one that mentioned him during our community vote. It was back in the mid-thirties for a spot that ended up going to Andrew Morales. I noted that Perez was just 19 years old, playing in Johnson City and reportedly throwing a 94 mph fastball. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore: Perez cracks TCN’s top 40 for the first time in his three-year career as a Cardinals prospect.

Moving up to Johnson City in 2014, Perez showed significant progress. The right-hander improved his ERA over a run compared to the year before, cut down on his walks (which have caused him troubles in the past), and even missed more bats by striking out 59 batters in his 58 ? innings pitched as a starter. He added ten strikeouts in his last start of 2014, which perhaps was a career-best outing. In six innings, he allowed only one run on a lone hit.

The Venezuelan can reach back and top out in the upper 90s but he dials it down to better his fastball command. Establishing the first pitch strike would allow him to use his coming along curveball and changeup that is said to be serviceable at this point.

If Perez can continue to make the transformation from thrower to pitcher, expect him to become a household name in this system. Even if he doesn’t work out as a starter, he still has a power arm to fall back on as a late-inning reliever, which obviously has value.

I’d like to see Perez challenged with an aggressive assignment to the Midwest League to start the 2015 season, but in reality starting in extended spring training with a mid-season move to State College seems a more likely plan.

Brian Walton (36): There is always risk in singling out players in rookie ball, especially a starting pitcher who did not turn 19 until over a month into the season. In this case, I think the attention is justified, with my number 36 ranking just enough to pull Perez into the consolidated top 40 for 2015. In our monthly rankings during the season, he made his top 40 debut in August.

Interestingly, moving up from the 2013 Gulf Coast League, Perez opened the season in Johnson City’s bullpen. After three rough relief appearances, he was moved into the rotation and thrived. In his 10 regular-season starts, consistency was an obvious strength, with him not allowing more than three runs in any outing.

The final start Derek mentioned above was in the post-season, as Perez tossed his gem in the Appalachian League finals opener – on the road. The right-hander was almost unhittable, as the only run came on a walk, a hit batsman and two-base wild pitch. Including that outing lowered Perez’ 2014 ERA as a starter to a sparkling 2.57.

Even though he was expanding the use of his repertoire in 2014, Perez held his career-long strikeout rate of just over one batter per inning. More impressively, he basically cut his walk rate in half from 2013 to 2014 while stepping up in competition.

With Perez among the top young hurlers invited to fall instructional league camp, I had his fastball in the 92-94 range. He mixed in a curve at 77-78 and an 80-84 mph changeup. With considerable upside, Perez is definitely a young hurler to watch going forward.

Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.

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