RAFAEL PEREZ
LEFT HANDED PITCHER
Born: May 15, 1982
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 195
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Signed: Int’l free agent, 2002 (Indians)
How Acquired: Minor league free agent
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: Drew Seccafico

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Perez has had an up-and-down career.  He established himself as a good starting pitching prospect quickly with the Indians, due to a low-90s fastball with excellent movement and a very strong slider.  He got established in the majors, though, as a late-inning reliever.  He’s never shown the velocity in the majors that he did in the minors, with his fastball ranging from 89.6 to 91.0 through 2011.  He’s relied very heavily on a slider, which has been by far his most effective pitch, and has occasionally thrown a change.  Perez had a lot of success in 2007-08 with very high K rates.  It wasn’t as a LOOGY, either, despite the way Perez is sometimes portrayed.  For some reason, though, he declined sharply in 2009, marked by his K rate suddenly falling through the floor.  There’s no obvious explanation for the swift decline.  Perez didn’t lose velocity; his fastball velocity was actually at its highest in 2009, which was when things started going south for him.  His slider velocity increased sharply starting in 2009, so something probably changed in the way he was throwing it.  He relied more and more heavily on the slider as he started struggling more, throwing the fastball less than a third of the time from 2010-12.  Perez rebounded somewhat in 2011, but started having shoulder problems in 2012 and hasn’t returned to the majors since then.  He ended up in the Mexican League in 2014, which is where he was when the Pirates signed him to a minor league contract.

2003
R+:  9-3-0, 1.70 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 69.0 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

Perez was a little old for a prospect making his US debut.  The Indians at the time didn’t have a team in either of the complex leagues, so he went to advanced rookie ball, where he dominated as a starter.  Baseball America ranked him 13th among the Indians’ prospects after the season.

2004
A:  7-6-0, 4.85 ERA, 1.46 WHIP. 115.0 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 7.7 K/9
A+:  0-0-0, 11.57 ERA, 2.57 WHIP, 4.2 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 5.8 K/9

Perez moved up to full season ball and had more trouble.  This came despite the fact that his velocity jumped to the 91-94 mph range.  He remained a starter and a lot of his difficulty may have resulted from the lack of a good change.

2005
A+:  8-5-0, 3.36 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 77.2 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 5.6 K/9
AA:  4-3-1, 1.76 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 66.2 IP, 1.6 BB/9, 6.2 K/9

Perez was much more successful in high A, although his walk and K rates weren’t good.  He earned a mid-season promotion and served as a swing man in AA, where he was more effective than in high A.  His velocity continued in the 92-94 range.  The Indians added him to their 40-man roster after the season.

2006
AA:  4-5-0, 2.81 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 67.1 IP, 2.9 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
AAA:  0-3-0, 2.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 27.1 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 10.9 K/9
MLB:  0-0-0, 4.38 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 12.1 IP, 4.4 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

Short on left-handed relief, the Indians brought Perez to the majors in three separate stints:  for one game in April, for a month starting in mid-June, and in September.  He pitched decently in the majors, mainly as a lefty specialist, but weak command kept him from being better than adequate.  He divided his minor league time between AA and AAA.  In AA he continued pitching as a starter and showed an improved K rate.  In AAA, Perez pitched exclusively in relief and his K rate shot up to well over a batter an inning.

2007
AAA:  3-3-0, 3.66 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 46.2 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
MLB:  1-2-1, 1.78 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 60.2 IP, 2.2 BB/9, 9.2 K/9

Perez went back to pitching as a starter in AAA, but the Indians brought him up briefly in early May and then to stay in late May.  He pitched exclusively in relief in the majors; in fact, he’s never started a major league game.  The Indians didn’t use him as a LOOGY and he pitched very well against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .580 OPS.  He held left-handed hitters to a miniscule .450 OPS.

2008
MLB:  4-4-2, 3.54 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 76.1 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 10.1 K/9

The Indians kept Perez in their bullpen all year and he pitched well, although he wasn’t quite as dominant as the previous year.  Right-handed batters had a little more success against him, managing an OPS of .683.

2009
AAA:  1-0-3, 0.83 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 21.2 IP, 2.1 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
MLB:  4-3-0, 7.31 ERA, 1.90 WHIP, 48.0 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

Perez got off to a horrific start, posting an ERA of 14.66 in 15 games through early May.  The Indians sent him to AAA for several weeks.  He wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d been in the early season — his K rate even returned to well over one per inning in June and July — but he was still posting a WHIP around 2.00.  Cleveland sent him back to AAA for a month beginning in early July.  He wasn’t a lot more effective when he returned and his K rate fell dramatically.  For some reason, left-handed batters were a particular problem, posting an OPS of 1.068 against Perez for the season.

2010
MLB:  6-1-0, 3.25 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 61.0 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 5.3 K/9

The Indians kept Perez in the majors all year, bringing him into 70 games, and he managed a good ERA, but his other numbers were poor.  They used him increasingly as a LOOGY.  Ironically, he had almost no platoon split at all.

2011
MLB:  5-2-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 63.0 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 4.7 K/9

Perez again spent the season with the Indians, getting into 71 games.  This time his peripherals largely supported his good ERA, although his K rate dropped to its lowest point ever.  The Indians again used him largely as a LOOGY and he held left-handed batter to a .594 OPS.

2012
AA:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 0.0 K/9
AAA:  0-0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2.0 IP, 4.5 BB/9, 4.5 K/9
MLB:  1-0-0, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.2 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 4.7 K/9

Perez went on the disabled list with a strained back muscle in late April and did not return except for a rehab attempt in the minors.  He finally underwent shoulder surgery in September.  The Indians non-tendered Perez after the season and he eventually signed a minor league deal with the Twins.

2013
AA (Bos):  2-2-6, 2.64 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 30.2 IP, 1.5 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
AAA (Minn):  1-0-0, 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.0 IP, 6.8 BB/9, 4.5 K/9

Perez didn’t pitch in April, then pitched in only four AAA games for the Twins before they released him.  The team had a deal with Perez that they would do so if he failed to make their major league roster.  The Red Sox picked Perez up a few days later and he spent the rest of the season with them in AA, partly as a closer.  After the season he became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Texas.

2014
AAA (Tex):  0-1-0, 7.36 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.2 IP, 0.0 BB/9, 9.8 K/9
AAA (Pgh):  3-1-0, 1.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 56.0 IP, 1.9 BB/9, 5.5 K/9
MEX:  3-5-0, 3.92 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 43.2 IP, 1.6 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

The Rangers released Perez after just four games.  He caught on with Verazcruz in the Mexican League, where he served mostly as a starter until the Pirates signed him in July.  He pitched mostly as a starter for Indianapolis and got very good results, without dominating.  With his fastball in the low- to mid-80s, though, the Pirates don’t appear to have been tempted to add him to the roster.

Perez will be a free agent again in the fall.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2008: $406,700
2009:
$436,300
2010: $795,000
2011: $1,330,000
2012: $2,500,000
2014: Minor league contract
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2002
MLB Debut: 4/20/2006
MiLB FA Eligible: 2014
MLB FA Eligible: 2014
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 11/18/2005
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2006, 2007, 2009)
MLB Service Time: 5.157
TRANSACTIONS
January 25, 2002: Signed as an international free agent with the Cleveland Indians.
November 18, 2005: Contract purchased by the Cleveland Indians.
November 28, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians; became a free agent on November 30.
February 14, 2013: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Minnesota Twins.
May 17, 2013: Released by the Minnesota Twins.
May 22, 2013: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Boston Red Sox.
November 5, 2013: Became a free agent.
January 18, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Texas Rangers.
April 17, 2014: Released by the Texas Rangers.
July 12, 2014: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.