We don't have an mailbag question about him right now, but Atlanta Braves rookie Williams Perez needs some attention.
Through 39 major league innings this spring over six starts and three relief appearances, Perez has a 2.29 ERA with a 31/19 K/BB and 33 hits allowed. Among rookie pitchers with 30 or more innings pitched, the ERA ranks fourth. The pretty ERA is somewhat misleading if you believe the considerably higher 3.79 FIP, which we should: the component ratios don't really add up to a 2.29. Still, he's holding his job and has had several strong outings including six shutout frames against the Boston Red Sox yesterday.
OK, so who is this one?
Perez is from Venezuela, signed as a free agent back in 2009. He pitched well last year without a lot of fanfare in Double-A, 2.91 ERA with a 94/39 K/BB in 139 innings. Fortunately I noticed this and wrote the following profile for the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book:
Williams Perez, RHP, Atlanta Braves Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 230 DOB: May 21, 1991
SLEEPER ALERT!! The Braves signed Williams Perez out of Venezuela in 2009. He’s made steady progress through the system, overshadowed by more famous prospects with better resumes, gaudier radar readings, and nicer height-weight measurements, but often out-pitching the guys who look better in uniform. He picks up a lot of grounders with his low-90s sinker, has a good change-up, throws strikes, and has made progress adding a slider to his repertoire. Perez doesn’t stand out under traditional analysis but he gets the job done, and could sneak into the majors as a back-end starter or long reliever sooner (and with more success) than people expect. Sounds like a sleeper to me. Grade C+.
Right now that's holding up pretty well. He's relying heavily on the 86-94 MPH sinker according to PITCHf/x, throwing it over 60 percent of the time. He'll mix in some curveballs in the 70s about 15 percent of the time. The pre-season reports I had made this pitch out as a slider, but right now it looks more like a curve, at least according to PITCHf/x. He also uses a straight change in the 70s and low 80s about 12 percent of the time, and some variant fastballs in the 90 MPH range about 10 percent. He's generating a lot of ground balls with all of this and his defense has backed him up.
Fluke? Yes and no. Yes, the ERA overstates matters and at some point it will (or at least should) creep closer to the FIP. Based on his overall track record, he looks a lot more like a guy who will post a 3.50 ERA in the long run than 2.20.
But no, he's not a complete fluke, and I don't see any reason why he can't be a competent inning-eater with slightly above average results as long as he stays healthy.