First Half Surprises No. 3: Josh Perrault

With the full-season All-Star games complete, takes a look at the top five prospect surprises of the first half of the 2009 season. Inside, ITO continues the countdown with a righty reliever at No. 3.

3. RHP Josh Perrault, Age 27, 2008 Minors Rule 5 Pick (Triple-A, 21st Overall)

Bowie: 0-2, 1.80 ERA, 35 G, 40.0 IP, 41 SO, 9 BB, 16 SV, BAA .199, 0.975 WHIP

Norfolk: 0-0, 2.35 ERA, 6 G, 7.2 IP, 10 SO, 0 BB, 1 SV, BAA .207, 0.783 WHIP

Totals: 0-2, 2.89 ERA, 41 G, 47.2 IP, 51 SO, 9 BB, 17 SV, BAA. .200, 0.944 WHIP

This really should not be surprising as the Orioles wanted Josh Perrault for a reason. He was the Orioles second draft pick in the Triple-A phase of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft prior to this season, the second time he had been selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft (the Nationals took him in 2005). Perrault has never really had a bad season, but 2008 was not one of his better campaigns.

He was drafted twice in the First-Year Player Draft, the 40th-round pick of the Diamondbacks in 2000 and the 42nd-round pick by the Marlins in 2001, but entered professional baseball as a non-drafted free agent in 2003 with the Diamondbacks. As mentioned above, he found his way into the Nationals and played for them for three seasons.

But, why makes Josh's season surprising? To be honest, who would expect an all-star type season from a guy starting out as a Doulbe-A set-up man in his seventh minor league season? After seeing him pitch, it was clear he would have success at the Doulbe-A level, but coming into the year, not many knew what to expect from him as he was not exactly a "household name."

Perrault pitched well and took advantage of every new opportunity and challenge throw his way. While being the main 8th inning guy for the Baysox, he became the closer in games after left-handed closer Wilfrido Perez would pitch multiple innings. Eventually, when Perez went down with injuries, Perrault became the full time closer and thrived. His 16 saves for Bowie were one more than he had saved in his entire career from 2003 through 2008.

What has led to all the success? Everything has come together for Perrault and he is putting up career bests in a number of categories (for the purpose of this, we'll look at his overall numbers this year across Triple-A and Double-A). If the season were to end today, he would set new career marks in every pitching ratio-based pitching statistic except for HR/9 IP (currently 0.80).

He has kept the ball in the zone, down, and attacked hitters all season. His 1.7 BB/9, 9.6 SO/9 (tied with 2007 over high-A and Double-A), and 5.67 SO/BB would all be tops in his career. The most remarkable of those three is the SO/BB ratio. This is more than 2 SO/BB better than his previous career high in 2005 with South Bend in the Single-A Midwest League.

Perrault also does not get rattled easily. If runners got on base, and eventually found themselves in scoring position, batters only hit .162 off of him in Bowie and just .167 in Norfolk. He also does not have any significant differences in handling left- or right-handed batters. In Bowie, lefties hit .192 off of him (.214 in Norfolk), while righties hit .205 in Bowie (.200 in Norfolk). In addition to that, even though it is just 7.2 innings, Perrault has kept the ball on the ground in Norfolk. He was a fly-ball pitcher in Bowie, getting 0.70 Go/Ao and is now getting 1.60 Go/Ao at the higher level.

His numbers are just mind-boggling compared to the rest of the career as he has just gotten better as he has moved up through the minor league ranks. He even earned Eastern League All-Star honors while pitching with the Baysox, but was unable to participate in the game due to his promotion to Norfolk.

But, what does the future hold for Perrault? This is his seventh season in the minor leagues which means his first contract is set to expire and he could be come a minor league free agent. Like major league free agents, he will get to choose where he gets to play, unless the Orioles take measures to prevent this from happening.

The Orioles would have to put Perrault on the 40-man roster before his contract expires. With trades possible in the near future and some relievers on the roster underperforming, it is entirely possible that Perrault earns a spot.

If his successes continues, Perrault may even see some time with the Orioles in September. His late-inning work in the minors has gotten him used to pressure situations. He is also a pitcher who can throw more than one inning, which should help, in terms of versatility. Also, If the past couple of seasons have been any indication, they will need as many arms as they can take and, logistically, he could help ease the burden on guys like Chris Ray and Matt Albers in their first years back from arm injuries.

Now, it will not be a surprise if Perrault gets another promotion.

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