River Bandits' Perez on right track

Astros' No. 13 prospect fans career-high nine in five shutout innings

Franklin Perez has given up four earned runs over 18 innings in his last four outings. (Rich Guill/Quad Cities River Bandits)

By Mack Burke / MiLB.com | August 14, 2016 10:00 PM

Franklin Perez has managed to accomplish every goal that's been set for him this year, according to Class A Quad Cities manager Omar Lopez. He came through again with a career night on Sunday.

The Astros' No. 13 prospect recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed four hits and a walk over five innings as the River Bandits blanked Peoria, 4-0, at Dozer Park.

"Tonight, I think he put everything together," Lopez said. "He was in command of all his pitches and also he was able to prove his pitchability by mixing his pitches really well and locating them in spots to put hitters away."

Although he posted the third scoreless outing in his last four appearances, Perez (3-2) allowed at least one baserunner in each inning but his fifth and final frame. Timely pitch execution and Quad Cities' Midwest League-leading defense propped him up.

The 18-year-old right-hander gave up a two-out double to Eliezer Alvarez in the first and threw a wild pitch that sent him to third before getting Brian O'Keefe to ground out.

Perez got a boost in the second, when Astros No. 4 prospect Kyle Tucker fired a strike from center field to nail Leobaldo Pina, who was trying to go from first to third on Carlos Torres' single.

"[Defense] is something that's been a key for us throughout the whole year," Lopez said. "If we're able to catch the ball, make the routine plays and be able to be in the positon we need to be in in order to minimize damage, then we're going to have a chance to win some games.

"That was a big key, right there, on a short popup, bloop single to center field. The guy from first was trying to be aggressive. Tucker was very smart in that situation and he noticed that he wasn't able to catch the ball, so he's waiting for the perfect bounce, barehanded it and made an accurate throw on a line to third base."

Perez surrendered a two-out double to Jose Martinez in the third, walked Pina with two outs in the fourth, then struck out two in a 1-2-3 fifth to end his night after 83 pitches, including 54 for strikes.

The Venezuela native went 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 games, including 10 starts, last year across the Rookie-level Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast leagues in his first professional season. He joined Quad Cities on May 18 and has a 2.83 ERA over 113 2/3 innings in 14 appearances, including nine starts.

"[What's special about] Perez is the mindset that he has," Lopez said. "He's a strong kid and he works very hard every single day. He knows what he needs to do in order to develop his pitchability and also his stuff. He's been able to accomplish every goal we've put on his development plan for this year. So I think the commitment that he has and the discipline he's displayed this year has proven that he can be consistent."

Tucker, MLB.com's No. 57 overall prospect, went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. The 2015 first-round pick out of Tampa is slashing .281/.352/.410 with six homers and 56 RBIs and has nine outfield assists while committing three errors in 90 games.

"The impressive part about Tucker is the baseball instincts that he has," Lopez said. "He has such great instincts that he's able to apply to every area of the game. We've seen development with him in all three positons in the outfield, and he's been able to make extremely big improvements in center. In the corner positions, he's very accurate with his throws. His instincts apply so well in the game, so he can put into practice everything he needs to do to keep moving up."

Following Perez, Astros No. 10 prospect Albert Abreu struck out five and gave up three hits and a walk over four innings to secure his fourth save.

Chiefs starter Ryan Helsley (8-2) had a personal eight-game winning streak snapped after allowing a run on two hits with three strikeouts in three innings.

Mack Burke is a contributor with MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @macburke18_MiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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