When Miami Marlins rookie Eury Pérez throws his first pitch against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, he'll immediately join a franchise legend. At 20 years, 27 days old, Pérez will become the youngest pitcher to debut with the Marlins, beating José Fernández's record.
Fernández, who took the baseball world by storm as a rookie in 2013, was 20 years, 250 days old when he made his major-league debut. He was electric from the start, striking out eight batters and giving up just one run in five innings of work. Fernández kept that momentum going all season and made the All-Star team as a rookie. He also won the Rookie of the Year award.
Pérez joins the major league team with a similar prospect pedigree. He, like Fernández, appeared on at least one top-10 prospect list ahead of his rookie season. Baseball America listed Pérez as its No. 7 prospect entering 2023, and Fernández ranked No. 5 on Baseball America's list in 2013.
Following his debut season, Fernández remained an excellent pitcher with the Marlins until he tragically died in a boat crash in 2016.
Eury Pérez comes to the Marlins with big expectations
Pérez is armed with four pitches that either are already above average or project to be above average. His fastball sits mid-90s but can hit the upper digits. His slider and changeup have flashed as excellent offerings, and he also boasts a curveball. That four-pitch mix helped Pérez rack up 110 strikeouts in 77 innings across Single-A and Double-A last season.
What really sets Pérez apart is his command. Pérez, who is listed at 6-foot-8, doesn't have control issues like other tall pitchers. He boasts a 7.7% walk rate in Double-A this season.
By comparison, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has a 7.9% walk rate in the majors.
The Marlins find themselves in an interesting predicament heading into Pérez's start. Thanks to a fantastic 12-0 record in one-run games, they are 19-19 on the season, despite the worst run differential in the National League. Teams generally win about 50% of one-run games.
That makes Miami a prime candidate to be hit hard by regression, though calling up a player such as Pérez could delay that. If he is everything scouts expect, he could pair with Sandy Alcántara and Jesús Luzardo to give the Marlins three quality arms at the top of the rotation.
That might not be enough to keep the Marlins in contention, but maybe Pérez can help keep the team afloat long enough that the Marlins wind up being buyers at the trade deadline. And if not, perhaps Pérez will give Marlins fans a reason to be excited about what's to come after some pretty disappointing results in recent years.