The Road to The Show™: Marlins’ Pérez
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Marlins prospect Eury Pérez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. The turning point for the Marlins’ latest rebuild will
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at top Marlins prospect Eury Pérez. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
The turning point for the Marlins’ latest rebuild will likely be the development of star pitching within the organization.
Miami already has a strong depth of talent on the mound in the Majors, including Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Edward Cabrera and a healthy Trevor Rogers. It’s also possible that Sixto Sánchez, Max Meyer and even Jake Eder would already be mainstays in that big-league rotation if not for injuries. But there’s another pitcher that might be able to outgrow the bunch.
Eury Pérez had the best season among any Marlins hurler in the Minors last season. As an 18-year-old in his first professional action, the 6-foot-8 right-hander compiled a 1.96 ERA with 108 strikeouts over 78 ⅓ innings in 20 starts. He was named the organization’s 2021 Pitcher of the Year for his work at Single-A Jupiter and High-A Beloit and set himself up for another aggressive assignment in 2022.
Despite entering the season as the youngest player in the Double-A Southern League by more than a full year, the top Marlins prospect managed similar results. He was one of the best pitchers in the Minors for the first half of the season. His 3.97 overall ERA with Pensacola was inflated a bit by a difficult three-start stretch that preceded a month-long stay on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. But his strikeout numbers and workload remained impressive.
The Santiago, Dominican Republic native fanned 110 batters in 77 innings during the regular season, and his 12.86 strikeouts per nine innings were the most among Marlins pitching prospects. Pérez also ranks ninth among all Minor League pitchers to complete at least 150 innings in the past two seasons with a 12.66 K/9 over that span.
"I think we had pretty high expectations for him," Hector Crespo, the Marlins' director of Minor League operations, told MLB.com in July. "Any time a 19-year-old is performing like that in Double-A, it's always pretty amazing to see. Coming into Spring Training, we were hoping he came in shape and ready to go, and he did that. We were hopeful. I wouldn't say exceeded -- he's met our expectations because we had such high expectations for him."
Pérez set statistical goals for himself to maintain an ERA lower than 3.00 and reach 200 strikeouts by season’s end -- in addition to the 108 he had in 2021. In his very next start, on July 24 against Biloxi, after laying out those goals, he surpassed 200 career strikeouts. And his ERA before those three starts entering his IL stint, during which he allowed 13 runs in 11 total innings, was at 2.92.
“I’m trying to enjoy the game and have some fun competing. I was trusting my stuff and that was it,” Pérez told MLB.com after registering a career-best 12 punchouts in April. “I’m trying to go out there and execute. I feel like I can play at all levels, that’s what my mindset is.”
As memorable as his regular season was, Pérez was also involved in some marquee events. In July, he was the Marlins’ lone representative at the Futures Game at Dodger Stadium and was the National League’s only pitcher to navigate a clean inning, registering a strikeout of Guardians prospect George Valera in the process.
Full Futures Game outing for Marlins #1 prospect Eury Pérez 🤩 pic.twitter.com/IobZ6P768m— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 17, 2022
Pérez also got the call for the Blue Wahoos in two elimination playoff games. MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 overall prospect had only returned from injury for a rehab start in Jupiter and a two-inning tune-up with Pensacola before the end of regular season. He didn’t fare well in the postseason, allowing seven runs across six innings in two starts. But, in the championship clincher against Tennessee, Pérez fanned the first eight batters he faced and recorded all nine outs via strikeout.
A lot has been made of Pérez’s growth -- both literally and as a pitcher -- since he signed with the Marlins for $200,000 in 2019. He’s currently listed 45 pounds heavier and four inches taller than his initial measurements as an amateur. His fastball velocity once sat in the high-80s has reached 98 mph in the Minors as his lanky frame grew stronger.
The heater will likely be the featured item in a four-pitch arsenal that could be the envy of all pitching prospects.
"He was always a high-velocity, fastball-command guy, and now he's got two or three plus pitches to go along with that arsenal," Crespo told MLB.com in July. "The sky's the limit."
Pensacola pitching coach Dave Eiland, who has 11 years of experience as a pitching coach in the Majors, winning World Series titles with the Yankees and Royals, helped him develop a slider to go along with a plus curveball. Pérez has also sought the advice of a Major Leaguer to develop his changeup.
"He's talking about my stuff, talking about my changeup and my two-seam," Alcantara told MLB.com in July. "I think he wants to learn how I throw my changeup. We're going to have time next Spring Training. I think he's going to be there with us. I'm going to take care of him."
Pérez said that he and Alcantara, a 2022 Cy Young hopeful, stay in touch throughout the season. Pérez couldn’t quite avoid the injury fate that plagued some of the other star pitching prospects in the organization, but his return for the playoffs was an encouraging sign. It’s unlikely that he’ll challenge for a spot in the big league rotation as soon as this spring, especially as many of these injured pitchers return. But he’s found success with aggressive assignments before, and each of his starts in 2023, regardless of the level, should be a must watch.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.