When you think about the Brewers pitching staff, typically big names like Josh Hader, 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams, Brandon Woodruff, and Corbin Burnes will come to mind – and for good reason.
Those four guys headline a pitching staff that was very solid in 2020, but it should be noted that Freddy Peralta quietly performed admirably as well, and at just 24 years old, the young right-hander still has plenty of room for development.
So, let’s look at his career to this point and set some reasonable expectations for him for the upcoming 2021 season.
Since debuting for Milwaukee on that memorable Mother’s Day game in 2018 where he struck out 13 Rockies, Peralta, a.k.a. “Freddy Fastball” has made a name for himself using his unique ability to induce swinging strikes with an extremely effective fastball as his go-to pitch. To put that broad statement into context, in 2020, 38% of all plate appearances against Peralta ended with a strikeout- an 8% jump from the previous season.
Though he has appeared as both a starter and a reliever, Freddy Peralta has seen the most consistent success as a reliever in the back end of the Brewers bullpen.
In taking over a role like this, Freddy was able to focus less on his pitch count, and just focus on getting the 3-6 outs Craig Counsell typically asks him to cover. When he was a starter, he would often get himself in trouble by walking batters early in the game and driving his pitch count up too far for him to go deep into the game.
Typically, as Brewers fans have likely noticed, when Freddy struggles it is usually not due to opponents making consistent hard contact off of him, but it is due to command. In 2020, he averaged 3.7 walks per 9 innings, which is a number that he should try to shrink. On the bright side, that number was 4.6 in his rookie year of 2018, so he has made some steady improvement in that category already.
Essentially, he sometimes beats himself, but rarely lets opponents beat him. This bodes well for Peralta’s future because clearly he has immense talent, but simply needs to tighten up his command, and if he continues to do this, he could be in store for a huge leap sometime in the near future.
If this leap occurs, it is well within the realm of possibility that Peralta would transition back into a spot in the starting rotation, given the fact that behind Woodruff and Burnes, there’s some uncertainty in the rest of Milwaukee’s rotation. Adrian Houser and Josh Lindblom are both under contract, but Brett Anderson no longer is, which frees up a spot for Peralta to potentially slide in at some point in 2021.
The best part? Freddy Peralta is cheap, and under team control for six more seasons. In February 2020, Peralta inked a very team-friendly 5-year, $15.5 million contract extension with team options for 2025 and 2026. Giving him this contract following a shaky 2019 shows how confident the Brewers’ front office is that Peralta is going to make the necessary improvements to have a bright future in a Milwaukee uniform.
If that future is in the rotation, that contract is a bargain. If his future is back in the bullpen, that contract is a solid value for both sides.
As for the ball-club as a whole, the Brewers are counting on several bounce-back offensive seasons from guys like Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, and Avisail Garcia, but if they are going to vault themselves back into true contention, Freddy Peralta making a leap reminiscent of other young pitchers in the David Stearns era is necessary. Thankfully, that seems less like a pipe dream and more like a significant possibility.