It was during September 2013 when then-Orioles international scouting guru Fred Ferreira went to see a pitcher he had not yet seen throw before at a showcase in the Dominican Republic. Before the day was out in San Pedro de Macoris, Ferreira decided the Orioles had to have tall right-hander Ofelky Peralta.
On the spot he agreed to sign him for $325,000. The kid could throw mid-90s already and might grow into more velocity. Before too long, he moved into the O’s top 30 prospects list.
* No. 29 in 2015
* No. 17 in 2016
* No. 12 in 2017
* No. 22 in 2018.
But like many young pitchers, while Peralta had plenty on his fastball, he could not control or command it consistently. He spent parts of 2017, 2018 and 2019 with Single-A Frederick. In that time, he went 8-19 with an ERA of 5.63 over 203 innings for the Keys with a 6.7 walk rate and strikeout rate of 7.4.
Getting out of Single-A ball was a chore.
But fast-forward to last week. The kid who signed at 16 is now 24. At Double-A Bowie this season for the first time, he faced Hartford on Thursday. He was throwing a fastball at times in the high 90s with a solid curveball and changeup that ranged from 86 to 88 mph with nice arm-side movement. He pitched five scoreless innings on three hits.
Peralta is back on the radar.
He is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in five games for the Baysox. It’s easy to get lost amid several pitching prospects with that Bowie club, led by top 100s Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall - and Bowie leads its league with a 3.01 rotation ERA - but Peralta has numbers any pitcher would happily take. Over 19 innings he has allowed 10 hits with eight walks to 26 strikeouts. He has touched 99 and 100 mph with his fastball.
When the 2019 season began, he took a step back to low Single-A Delmarva. There he got to know and worked with a pitching coach in Justin Ramsey, then in his first year with the O’s. And Peralta went 6-2 with a 3.03 ERA, getting somewhat back on track. The two were reunited this season with Bowie.
“One thing that has been so fun with Ofelky is his willingness to learn and try new things,” Ramsey said during an interview yesterday. “He wants to be good. So that was something he said from Day One in 2019 when we broke camp together. He said, ‘I’m yours. Let’s go do this and go to work.’ We had a good relationship from the beginning and he has just worked hard on developing a more consistent and repeatable delivery that allows him to throw more strikes, which you have seen.
“He has trusted the process to throw more off-speed pitches. We know he can throw hard. When he was younger, that is what he fell back on if he fell behind. And you can throw the ball by hitters at the lower levels, but it doesn’t work as well as you move up. He’s done a really good job of finding a better feel of his breaking ball and changeup that has allowed him to have the success we are seeing now.”
Tall and thin at 6-foot-5, the moving parts were sometimes moving all over the place for Peralta. But he’s more polished and smooth now and online with his delivery.
“He has really worked to improve the consistency of his delivery and the rhythm and timing have kind of synched up and helped him get to the point in the delivery that lets the ball come out of the same spot,” Ramsey said. “A credit to him and he worked hard on that at instructs (fall instructional league in 2020) with Holty (O’s pitching coach Chris Holt).”
Credit to Peralta for getting some work in on his own as well last year in the Dominican. The secondaries now show the potential that his fastball always had.
“His curveball is where we have spent some work recently, just to create a consistent shape that is going to play both versus lefties and righties,” said Ramsey. Peralta allows a batting average of .154 to lefty batters and .162 versus right-handed hitters.
The kid who had a great attitude and that was so upbeat on that field in the Dominican that impressed Ferreira eight years ago, still has that.
“One hundred percent,” Ramsey said. “He is a phenomenal guy and always comes to work with a smile on his face. That makes it more fun to work. But he’s competitive. Being nice doesn’t get you to the big leagues. But when he is on the mound, another gear clicks in. I don’t want to say that makes him great, because we are striving for greatness, but what makes him so good is that ability to turn it on when he’s in the game and have that edge to him when he’s on the mound. But off the field and getting to work, he is as good as they come.”
You could throw a dart at a Bowie roster right now, hit a pitcher’s name and that pitcher probably has a shot to get to Baltimore. For a while, that was not true of Peralta, or at least he was not realizing his vast potential.
Things are different now.
“Honestly, as a coach, our job is to never say they can’t help the big league club,” Ramsey said. “We are trying to get these guys weapons to get big leaguers out and he is absolutely making strides that one day he could be one of those guys to make it all the way to the show. He’s definitely doing some things to make you think, this guy could help us at the highest level.”
He was indeed named the AL Player of the Week on Monday. Mountcastle recorded a .458 average (11-for-24) with three doubles, four home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored and a 1.083 slugging percentage in six games.
Over his past 12 games, he is batting . 372 (16-for-43) with four doubles, a triple, five homers and 14 RBIs. During this stretch, he has raised his batting average from .221 to .254 and his OPS from .577 to .729
The Orioles host the New York Mets tonight to start a two-game series at Oriole Park with lefty Bruce Zimmermann (3-3, 4.96 ERA) against lefty David Peterson (1-4, 5.89 ERA).