As the Cincinnati Reds entered spring training left handed reliever Wandy Peralta was not really in the conversation for a bullpen spot. Bryan Price, however, was telling people about his improvements early on:
[He has] a really good changeup and a slider that’s impressed me as being better this year. The command and sharpness has been better.
In the past, it’s been the control, and the lack of a usable breaking ball against lefties that’s held him back. In 7.1 big league innings last year he walked seven batters. In the minors during 2016 he dominated in Pensacola in 17.2 innings with just three walks and 20 strikeouts. In Louisville it wasn’t as easy, though his ERA did improve. He had 23 walks and 38 strikeouts in 58.0 innings. The walk rate wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. And the strikeout rate was well below-average.
The fastball and change up have been above-average to plus pitches for a while. He’s a lefty that can throw mid 90’s and touch the upper 90’s somewhat regularly. The change up is outstanding. When he’s able to locate.
This season, granted we are looking at a very small sample size, even if we include spring training, Wandy Peralta simply looks like a different pitcher. In 2016 it was the first time he was used mainly as a reliever. Perhaps there was an adjustment period there as he got used to the new role. In the spring, his ERA was 6.00, but that’s not nearly as important was the four walks and 13 strikeouts that he posted. Nor is it as important as how his slider looked. Despite the ERA being high, the Reds brought Peralta north with the team.
In three games so far he has thrown 4.1 hitless innings with a walk and he’s struck out five batters. The control has been much better this year than I’ve seen from him at any point in his career, even going back through the minor leagues. Now, small sample size alerts apply here, big time. But, there could be something else going on, too. At least early on, he’s changed how he’s pitched.
Looking at the data from BrooksBaseball.net, we can see the massive differences in pitch usage (again – small sample size alert):
He’s been going to the 4-seamer and slider significantly more and dropped off the usage of the change up some as well. Overall, fewer fastballs and more offspeed stuff. Now, that could be due to the fact that he’s throwing more strikes, so going with offspeed stuff when you’re ahead makes sense way more than when you’re behind. But, it probably also goes back to what Bryan Price saw early in the spring: The slider is a much better offering today than it’s been in the past. If you watched Wandy Peralta at all this season, and remember what his stuff looked like in the past, it’s easy to see. The slider is more crisp, it’s got tighter action to it and he’s willing and able to throw it when and where he wants to.
As I’ve noted several times in the article – it’s early. But we’re seeing things from Wandy Peralta that we haven’t in the past. At 25-years-old, maybe he’s figured something out. If he has, it could be huge for the Cincinnati Reds bullpen. Having a lefty that can throw hard, has three pitches and the ability to throw strikes would give them a lot of flexibility in how to use the bullpen.
Actual Minor League Notes
Ok, so that above write up on Wandy Peralta wasn’t entirely minor league related, but I really felt like giving him some credit for what he’s done. Hopefully Chad and Steve decide to let me keep writing even though I went off-topic, slightly.
Tanner Rainey, the Reds 2015 2nd round pick (71st overall selection; Tony Santillan was also their 2nd round pick that year, he went 49th overall) made the transition from starting pitcher to relief pitcher last August. To say that things have gone well with that transition would be the understatement of the year. He’s now thrown 16.1 innings as a reliever in that span. The results? 13 hits allowed, four walks, three earned runs (1.56 ERA) and 30 strikeouts. This season he’s struck out 10 of the 12 batters he’s faced for the Daytona Tortugas. Those 10 strikeouts currently LEAD the Florida State League. He’s thrown 4.0 innings this season. Dominant.
Sal Romano has picked up where he left off in big league camp from spring training. The right hander has allowed two runs in 13.0 innings with a walk and eight strikeouts in two starts. I was at his start last night in Louisville and will have a full write up and video from the game in the afternoon at RedsMinorLeagues.com if you’re interested in reading more about that. I’ll tease you with this: He’s really good.