By Kaelen Jones
MARYVALE — The future looks bright for Freddy Peralta, perhaps even brighter than the braces-filled smile the Brewers right-hander flashes as he takes the field at Maryvale Baseball Park.
Peralta is participating in spring training camp for the first time this year. He is a prized member of a group of young pitching prospects that Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell considers to be his club’s “next wave” of contributing arms.
“He’s a guy that’s on the big-league radar,” Counsell said Wednesday. “Not to start the season, but he has certainly put himself on the radar for the big-league team at some point in 2018.”
The Brewers acquired Peralta, a native of the Dominican Republic, on December 9, 2015, along with two other right-handed pitching prospects from the Mariners in exchange for first baseman Adam Lind.
Despite having yet to breakthrough with the big-league club, early returns on Peralta, who’s currently listed as the No. 9 prospect in Milwaukee’s system by MLB.com, suggest the move might have been worth it.
At the start of last season, he pitched 56 1/3 innings for Class-A Advanced Carolina, registering 78 strikeouts and a 3.04 earned-run average. He was named a Carolina League Midseason All Star, the second consecutive year he garnered minor-league all-star recognition.
“If you work hard all the time, the team will try to send you to the All-Star Game,” Peralta said. “If you make it, you’ve got to go do your job. It’s fun.”
Peralta was promoted to Double-A Biloxi during the second half of the season. The 21-year-old performed even better than he had before, finishing the stint with an impressive 91 strikeouts and 2.62 ERA across 63 2/3 innings.
“He’s striking out hitters at a rate that makes you stand up and notice,” Counsell said.
Looking at Peralta, who stands 5-feet-11 and 175 pounds, one wouldn’t assume that he possesses the stuff to overwhelm batters. In 2013, when he first broke into the minors within the Mariners system, he was even told he wasn’t big enough to play baseball.
“They told me, ‘You are too small for baseball,’ ” Peralta said. “I didn’t pay attention to that commenter. You just keep your head up, and that’s all.”
Counsell said he thinks Peralta uses his small stature to his advantage. Peralta possesses a long windup and generates good action on his fastball, which touches the low 90s. He can also throw a handful offspeed pitches which keep batters guessing.
“His job is to get the ball past hitters,” Counsell said. “He’s doing a great job of that.”
While Peralta might not be ready to break into the major leagues by the beginning of the season, Counsell said being invited to be on the club’s spring roster is a positive sign.
“I always take that as that means (Milwaukee general manager) David (Stearns) thinks they’re close when they’re here,” Counsell said.
Regardless of where he starts the campaign, Peralta remains excited about the opportunity he has to play with the big-league team now, taking in everything he can from teammates and coaches.
“I’ll go to whatever level that they send me,” Peralta said, smiling. “They have the decision, but I hope to be there this year (with the Brewers).”