Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Wilber Perez, who enjoyed a terrific 2018 in the Dominican Summer League while pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers and and White Sox organizations.
Wilber Perez (RHP) DSL White Sox
Wilber Perez was the much less heralded prospect the White Sox received from the Brewers on July 26, as part of the Joakim Soria deal. However, as often turns out to be the case, his career may eventually surpass of the higher-touted prospect — in this case, southpaw Kodi Medeiros. Of course, only time will tell, but Perez certainly had a nifty season this year in his native Dominican Republic.
Perez signed a minor league deal as a 19-year-old with the Brewers on July 10, 2017, and ultimately pitched in nine relief outings last year for their DSL squad. Although he enjoyed a respectable 3.45 ERA in his 15 1⁄3 innings of work, Perez’s other results were rather mediocre: 1.72 WHIP, 18 hits allowed (.281 OBA), nine walks (12.3 BB%) and 16 strikeouts (21.9 K%). This year, in eight starts for the DSL Brewers encompassing 40 1⁄3 innings, his results dramatically improved: 2.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 25 hits (.177 OBA), 13 walks (8.0 BB%) and 47 strikeouts (29.0 K%).
After being traded to the White Sox, Perez picked up right where he left off. In six outings (five starts), he pitched 30 innings, allowing just 18 hits (.188 OBA) and eight walks (7.0 BB%) while striking out 28 (24.6 K%). His combined results for 2018 were terrific: 70 1⁄3 innings, 44 hits, 21 walks and 75 strikeouts, with a 1.92 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Of course, his results should be taken with a grain of salt, as he was 1.6 years older than the league average.
Because Perez wasn’t a heralded prospect when he signed with the Brewers last year, and also because he’s pitched exclusively in the Dominican League during his brief career, scouting information on Perez is quite scarce. According to Baseball Prospectus, Perez has a 88-91 mph fastball with a cutter, curve and changeup. It’s possible that his fastball could project higher, as he gets older (he’ll turn 21 in November) and increases his weight.
Regardless, Perez’s results indicate that his repertoire is clearly working. Lefties batted .160 against his offerings this year, while righties batted just .187 — the numbers indicate that his change and cutter were both quite effective. It’s not necessarily how hard a pitcher throws that determines his effectiveness, but a combination of several things: movement, location, speed variation between the fastball and off-speed pitches, and focus. Based on relatively small sample sizes, Perez seems to have these assets, in spades.
Perez should begin the 2019 season with the AZL White Sox, with a chance for early promotion to Great Falls halfway through the season, due to his age. Then, if all goes well, he’d be ticketed for Kannapolis in 2020.
Perez’s success next year may play a pivotal role toward determining whether he will have a future in the back end of a rotation, or destined instead as a long or middle reliever, where his fastball could receive an uptick. His upside seems to be a pitcher like Spencer Adams — a back-end starter, due to solid control and a nice arsenal of pitches. Perez’s floor seems to be someone be like Juan Minaya — with better control, but a less dynamic fastball.