Our new Prospect Watch is aimed to give you a deeper insight into what is happening throughout the system, not just with the top prospects, but with everyone. We’ve provided daily results for years under our old Prospect Watch article. You can now find the daily game results in our new Pirates Prospects Live feature.
Yesterday’s Results: Pirates Can’t Dig Out of First-Inning Hole, Lose Fourth Straight
Today’s Prospect Watch explores the hitting of one of the top prospects in the system, Liover Peguero. Wilbur Miller has a look at 2022 11th round pick Dominic Perachi. John Dreker gives a report on Carlos Mateo, the highest paid pitcher from last year’s international class.
TIM WILLIAMS: Liover Peguero, SS, Altoona (AA)
I saw Liover Peguero hit a home run live on May 11th. Since that point, Peguero has hit for a .313/.364/.542 line in 143 plate appearances, adding six more homers. Prior to that game, Peguero had a .620 OPS on the season, in what was his second year at the Double-A level. The 22-year-old shortstop is one of the highest upside prospects in the Pirates system, and he’s been showing that at the plate over the last month.
What stood out about that home run on May 11th was how Peguero was unfazed by a change in pace from the other team. The starter that night worked slow. Peguero and Henry Davis were the only two hitters I watched who waited for the starter to begin his routine, before they each locked in their own routines. To me, this is a Major League move, going in with the mindset that you don’t have to rush to get ready for the opposing pitcher.
The reliever that day worked much faster, and shut the entire Altoona offense down, except for Peguero. Despite an approach that waits a bit longer on the pitcher to start, and despite the new pitcher speeding up the pace, Peguero crushed a home run. I talked to him after that May 11th game about the other team changing paces on him, and he had some great insight on the importance of being locked in at the plate.
“I feel like they be doing that just to get you out of focus, just you know, to get you on the rush. But I feel like you’re the one who also can let them do that to you,” Peguero said. “But if you’re really locked in, it’s not going to bother you. Like, in my case, I don’t really think about if they’re rushing or not. I will be locked in on every pitch and just be prepared.”
The stats didn’t look like it at the time, but Peguero looked like he was locked in. He did not look like a hitter who had a .620 OPS, nor a hitter who went a combined 1-for-14 when I saw him live. He looked more like the hitter who picked up three more hits last night, five in the last two days, and who has been absolutely crushing everything over the last month-plus. Peguero looks locked in right now, and we’re seeing how dangerous Peguero can be when he’s locked in at the plate.
WILBUR MILLER: Dominic Perachi, LHP, Bradenton (A)
The Pirates’ drafting of college pitchers under Ben Cherington has followed a pattern. They like pitchers from obscure schools, and pitchers who did well in summer ball. And, increasingly, they look for high-spin breaking balls. Unfortunately, there’s another common thread: they don’t pitch well, even at low levels like Bradenton, where a college draftee should dominate.
Dominic Perachi chacks all the boxes. He went to Salve Regina University and did well in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. And he gets bonus points for being from Australia. And his game is all about spinning a breaking ball. His curve and slider — he uses the former much more often — both typically average about 2700-2800 RPB, a bit less than, say Brandan Bidois (another Australian, interestingly), but still that’s a good number. His fastball supposedly sat in the low-90s when the Pirates drafted him in the 11th round, but with Bradenton it’s averaged a hair under 90 mph.
Perachi’s performance hasn’t been so good, and this is in a league where hitters can be extremely vulnerable to breaking balls. He’s fanned 9.6 per nine innings, but he’s walked 3.9 and opponents are batting .278 against him. That amounts to a 1.50 WHIP, which isn’t good, and an ERA of 4.35. The basic problem is that he seldom throws his breaking stuff for strikes and the hitters seem to know it. They just don’t swing, which makes it hard to get swings and misses.
Perachi’s control varies from game to game, but overall he’s only throwing the curve for strikes about 30-odd percent of the time. On May 28, for instance, he threw 24 curves. Of those, 38% were strikes and he got only five swings and one miss. On June 4, he threw 23 curves and got only six swings. He had a better game overall, though, because he got the ball in the strike zone 43% of the time. In some games, his percentage of curves thrown in the strike zone has been below 30%. Rich Hill has shown that it’s possible to succeed while throwing curves a lot, but Hill’s been doing it since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Perachi will need to command the pitch a lot better to succeed with it.
JOHN DREKER: Carlos Mateo, RHP, DSL Pirates Black (Rk)
The Pirates made some waves when they signed right-handed pitcher Jun-Seok Shim out of South Korea in January. He was considered to be one of the top prospects in the entire 2022-23 international signing class. However, their biggest bonus for a pitcher actually went to 17-year-old right-handed pitcher Carlos Mateo out of the Dominican Republic.
Mateo is off to an extremely rough start to his pro career. He allowed five runs in his pro debut, while recording just two outs. His second game saw him give up one run on four walks, while retiring one batter. He got help from reliever Jarlen De La Paz, who stranded all three inherited runners, otherwise his 54.00 ERA could look even worse. Mateo has given up two hits and seven walks in his one inning of work, while failing to pick up a strikeout. The sample size is two starts, which makes it way too early to critique the signing. I thought instead I’d point out what the Pirates saw in him that they felt he deserved such a big bonus.
Despite the results showing otherwise, Mateo was throwing a lot of strikes with a fastball that routinely topped out at 95-96 MPH before signing with the Pirates. He already had a large frame before a late mini growth spurt that got him up to 6’3″ by January. Between the velocity and the frame, he had all of the makings of a durable long-term starting pitcher. There was still some rawness to his game. The Pirates were banking on the athleticism, arm speed, size and fastball control when they signed him, but he had one consistent pitch. His breaking ball and changeup both had potential, but there was immediate work done to adjust his grip on both pitches. While I’ll stop short of saying he was a bit of a project, there was going to be some expected adjustment period due to two new pitches.
Mateo could probably dominate a Dominican Summer League game with elite velocity (if he’s throwing strikes), but there wouldn’t be much progress being made if he was getting by with his one quality pitch. I wouldn’t look too much into the numbers, other than watching how he progresses throughout the rest of the season.
Prospect Watch Archives
6/16: Kyle Nicolas, Anthony Solometo, Jack Brannigan
6/15: Shalin Polanco, Abrahan Gutierrez, Will Matthiessen
6/14: Nick Cimillo, Geovanny Planchart, Jesus Castillo
6/13: Brandan Bidios, Yordany De Los Santos, J.P. Massey
6/12: David Matoma, Jun-Seok Shim, Tsung-Che Cheng
The Prospect Watch runs every day at noon, featuring three players from the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.