Martín Perez is on his way to being legitimate

Okay, so we’re early in the baseball season. Like, way early. With three games down, that leaves 159 to go… 98.1% of the year remaining.

However, over the last two games, Ranger starters — Martín Perez and Robbie Ross — have combined to throw 10.2 IP, allowing 5 runs (4 ER) on 14 hits, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14:2 (7-t0-1). While Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are all on the shelf, that’s production the Rangers will take. All damn day.

Last night, Perez didn’t even walk a batter, striking out 7 over 5.2 innings on the bump. It could just be a mild fascination I have with Martín…. After all, I’ve followed his progression through the minor leagues since he was a 17 year-old…

But what’s really impressive about him, after all this time, is that he’s still not even 23. (Tomorrow he will be, but still.) He was one of those rare prospect-types that actually dropped in prospect status as he ascended through the minor leagues. Most of the time, guys gain steam as they rise from rookie ball to the pros; it’s just the natural order.

Martín Perez, on the other hand, was branded as Johan Santana 2.0 when he was 18. There’s really nowhere to go but down. By the time he was 21, Perez had metastasized into a still-valuable but not as valuable “future #3 starter,” and that was all fine and well, but perhaps a bit shortsighted when considering Perez’s relative age and overall disposition as a professional.

Back in 2007, Martín Perez was signed as an amateur out of Venezuela for $580,000. And from the point he got started, scouts were wowed by his top-shelf change up and advanced curveball. Each year he pitched, whether it was as a 17 year-old in low-A, an 18 year-old in full season ball, a 19 year-old in double-A, or a 20 year-old in triple-A… Perez was constantly being tested by players well above his age bracket. He never had truly dominating minor league statistics — at least not once he reached AA Frisco four years ago — but he also never had any flops. He always held his own.

He’s now 23, and for the last two years he’s gotten the experience of facing big league competition, as well as learning under the tutelage of one of the better pitching coaches in baseball, Mike Maddux. I think you could argue both ways for which is more critical towards Martín’s development.

In my little rundown I did of the Rangers pitching situation, I mentioned:

Still only in his age-23 year, it’s entirely possible that Martín could generate more FIP-wins (fWAR for pitchers) in 2014 than anyone on the Rangers not named Yu Darvish.

I’m not framing this article based off of one start… I’ve been confident in Perez for the extent of his stay in the organization thus far. We’ll see where he takes it from here, but the most immediate sign that he’s taking the next step as a starting pitcher will manifest itself in the strikeout department, so here’s to hoping his first outing was the start of a promising trend.

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