Every year, MLB teams have that player who finally makes their first big breakthrough on the sport’s biggest stage. The Milwaukee Brewers have had no shortage of those types of players over the last few years.
Last season, Devin Williams and his “Airbender” burst on to the scene and took home both NL Rookie of the Year and Reliever of the year awards. In 2019, Keston Hiura made his mark in the bigs during his rookie year while Brandon Woodruff began to establish himself as the team’s future ace.
And in 2018, even though he was a five-year MLB veteran at that point and even already had a Gold Glove to his name, you had the official arrival of what would become the team’s perennial MVP candidate in Christian Yelich.
This season brings a new crop of Brewers looking to be more than just role players and establish themselves as big time major leaguers. So which guys have the best shot at making that dream a reality?
Here are three candidates who could have a breakout season for the Brewers in 2021.
1. RHP Freddy Peralta
It’s not exactly as though Freddy Peralta is new to the Brewers, having been pitching in the majors for them since the 2018 season. But would you really say that he has had an official breakout season for Milwaukee at this point?
“Fastball Freddy’s” Mother’s Day debut in 2018 made it seem like the breakout would happen immediately. That day, he went 5 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up a hit and two walks and striking out 13 of 21 batters in a game that ranks as one of the most memorable outings in recent team history.
Things leveled off after that and Peralta would finish the season with a 4.25 ERA, 1.136 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9 in 16 games (14 starts). It offered optimism for what the young gun could bring to the table the following season.
Unfortunately, his first crack at becoming a full-time starter didn’t go so well. An 8.31 ERA through five starts to begin the season saw Peralta get converted to a reliever for most of the remainder of 2019 and he would finish with a 4.26 ERA over 34 appearances, almost all out of the bullpen.
After one start to begin 2020 (3 IP, 3 H, 4 ER), it was back to the bullpen for Peralta where he looked even better than the previous year. He would finish with a 3.08 ERA, 1.101 WHIP, .198 batting average against, and a 15.0 K/9 as a reliever last year.
Peralta was signed to a five-year contract extension before the 2020 season and at the time, the team mentioned the long-term vision of utilizing him as a starter once again. Apparently 2021 could be where that vision is realized.
Recently, Peralta was officially named a member of the team’s starting rotation for 2021, a spot where he belongs after a big spring training performance. And with the further improved pitch mix he displayed this spring, there’s reason to believe he can unlock a new level of potential in the role, and we even think he can rise to the level of No. 3 starter this year as one of our bold predictions.
Prior to signing his extension, word on the street was that he was working on adding a slider to his repertoire. However, he only ended up using it 4.8% of the time in 2020. This spring, though, he has been using it much more often and making hitters look quite uncomfortable against it at that.
With, at minimum, three effective pitches at his disposal, it’s possible this version of Freddy Peralta could be an even more effective starter than the version we’ve seen in the past. If so, he could be due for a breakout in 2021.