The Braves have had a lot of guys step up and exceed expectations this season. Cameron Maybin is playing the best baseball of his life and is deteriorated the notion that he was considered a bust. Kelly Johnson has stepped up in a big way and has offered offensive production that far exceeded any fans’ expectations when he was signed to a minor league deal this offseason. However, I’m giving this award to Williams Perez.
While the Braves stockpiled pitching prospects this offseason, Williams Perez was an afterthought, despite putting up nice numbers for AA Mississippi in 2014. He did not crack many Braves’ prospect lists coming into this season. However, Perez is proving his worth to Atlanta. He started 2015 with an absolutely dominant performance for AAA Gwinnett, tossing a 1.33 ERA in his first 5 starts. Trevor Cahill and Eric Stults proved to be ineffective starting options, and after a handful of relief appearances with the MLB club, Perez got a crack at the rotation. He never looked back.
In his 8 starts for Atlanta, Perez is 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA. He keeps his fastball in the low 90’s with great off speed pitches to match. He does not strike out a lot of guys, but unlike a lot of Braves pitching this year, he has not walked a lot of batters. Great things happen when pitchers make hitters put the ball in play. He has probably been the second best starter for Atlanta this season behind Shelby Miller. Unfortunately for Perez, he was hit by a ball in late June and went on the DL with a bone bruise. He will likely return to the rotation for the Braves after the All-Star break. Starting as a somewhat unknown prospect and rising to one of the best pitchers in the starting rotation does not happen everyday, and what a pleasant surprise it has been. Many may fear that Perez could be a one year wonder because he’s not a big strikeout guy, but he hits his corners and controls his pitches and for this reason I think he can maintain success in the bigs. He’s a prime example of how well the Braves can develop pitching in their farm system.