Surprise, Arizona —— Entering play on Tuesday night, Chicago Cubs right-handed pitching prospect Yunior Perez is 0-3 with a 9.82 ERA over seven games (six starts) for the rookie level Arizona League‘s Arizona League Cubs, with 26 strikeouts against 29 hits and nine walks spread out over his first 18.1 innings pitched. I observed the 18-year-old Dominican in his August 8 start on the road against the AZL Rangers; below is Baseball Census‘ full Yunior Perez scouting report, including video.
Yunior Perez Scouting Report — Video
Our video of Chicago Cubs right-handed pitching prospect Yunior Perez shows his full (one inning) outing in that August 8th start against the Arizona League Rangers, where he struck out two batters in a scoreless inning before being removed at the start of the second inning with what appeared to be a right forearm or elbow injury:
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Yunior Perez Scouting Report — Notes
A surprisingly well-built kid considering he’s still just 18 years old, Yunior Perez can bring it with his fastball, sitting 90-94 mph in my look last week. He has above-average command of the pitch to both sides of the plate, especially relative to his age and lack of pitching experience, and he’s a serious attack-first guy who isn’t afraid of trying to get guys to put it in play. The Chicago Cubs prospect has enough velocity, and enough late life when down in the zone, that he can effectively work as a power pitcher in that regard; here’s my best, let’s have your best, and we’ll go at it. It makes sense, then, that Perez’s breaking ball goes along with the heater: the curve is a sharp late-breaking pitch that, while very inconsistent, shows great downward plane when it’s on. Perez throws it hard, and very tight spin helps the pitch action, making it tough to pick up out of his hand when he’s able to get out in front and over the top to manipulate it the right way. At times, it almost seemed to knuckle, which is an interesting wrinkle in and of itself; perhaps it’s just his inconsistency with it, but I’d love to see how he’s holding the curve. Perez also flashes a straight changeup right now, but it’s a distant third pitch with little by way of run or sink in my (admittedly minimal) looks.
One (perhaps major) thing of note: in his August 8 start that we have on video above, Yunior Perez was supposed to go longer than one inning, but he was removed at the beginning of the bottom of the second due to an apparent arm injury. He pointed to his forearm, trainers came out, and he was pulled; later that evening while his AZL Cubs teammates played on, Perez was walking around with a big ice bag wrapped on his forearm/elbow. No point in speculating—it could be the absolute biggest or the absolute smallest physical issue, or anything in between—but it’s certainly something to note moving forward. Perez has a live arm with great raw stuff, though inconsistent, and if he can refine things over the coming few seasons and find good fortune with arm health, he’s going to turn into a pretty impressive power pitcher.
Long term, as tough as it is to project out teenagers pitching for the first time in rookie ball, I think Yunior Perez will prove to be a clear cut candidate to move to the bullpen. Added fastball velocity and improved consistency of his hard curve will give him a deadly one-two punch in a few years, and he has the tempo, mindset, and demeanor on the mound that all suggest he’d thrive in high-leverage, high-adrenaline relief roles. Sure, he might develop the change (or a splitter, or something else) and show he has a deep enough repertoire to keep starting, but I like him as a future late-inning power arm who will challenge hitters with enough life to miss bats in close games. We’ll see!