Houston Astros: Cionel Pérez – The rock of Camarioca

 

If the Houston Astros give Cionel Perez his chance, he could be ready to surprise.

Houston Astros pitcher Cionel Perez has an array of dominant pitches. He has a chance to be the most dominant lefty to come out of Cuba since Miguel Cuellar if given the chance. The young man from Matanzas has five pitches in his arsenal (fastball, curve, slider, changeup, and sinker).

His fastball has been clocked at 97 mph, and his slider has a sharp break and reaches 88 mph, but his curve is a go-to pitch. ”Obviously my fastball is my most dominant pitch but my curve isn’t far behind. I throw with confidence at any time during  the count.”

Scouts have nary a doubt that Pérez can be a dominant pitcher at the next level.

Pérez, in two seasons with the Crocodile of Matanzas, had a record of 10-5, an ERA of 2.05 and struck out 100 in 139 innings.

Leaving the Island

Cionel was in the middle of an immaculate season in 2016 when he decided to leave Cuba for a better future in professional baseball.

In September of 2016, he signed with the Houston Astros for a bonus of $5.15 million, but the contract was voided due to an elbow injury discovered in his physical.

Pérez agreed to a new contract in December of that same year for $2 million,” Having my contract voided didn’t bother or deter me one bit. But I did continue to work hard and with that and a little luck I rose through the Astros organization. ”

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Adjusting to a new land

Upon signing with Astros he had to begin his career in Davenport, Iowa, and his migration wasn’t as difficult for him as it had been for others. ”Adjusting to my new country wasn’t difficult. Though I’m still learning English, I find American culture quite interesting. Now in respect to missing Cuba, of course, I miss it and think about it on the mound from time to time.”

His performance on the mound surely supported his claim of making a quick transition to American life.

Making his Professional debut

In 2017, he made his debut in organized baseball with the Quad Cities River Bandits. That season he had a 6-4 record, along with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.29 WHiP with Quad Cities (A), Buies Creek (A+) and Corpus Christ (AA). Pérez was added to the 40 man roster after the season.

In 2018, he opened the season at Corpus Christi and proceeded to be dominating. In 16 starts with the Hooks, he had a 6-1 record and a 1.98 ERA before being promoted to Fresno (AAA) where he made four starts before being called up to the big leagues.

When I asked him how did he prepare for the competition of a farm system so loaded with talent as that of the Astros he responded, ”I had a solid competition base in Cuba and that prepared me a lot. I spent two years pitching at the highest level of baseball on the island, where I learned a lot from very accomplished and seasoned pitchers. This helped me plenty. Also when I began my preparation for my showcases, my trainer Chiqui Mejia and his abundance of knowledge in the art of pitching was a great help also.”

Reaching the Majors

On July 11, 2018, Pérez made his major league debut against the Oakland Athletics pitching 1.2 innings in relief, giving up a run and striking out two.

In all the lefty pitched 11.1 innings, posting a 3.97 ERA and a 1.15 WHiP in his first season with the big club.

It is very reasonable to believe that Pérez has a good shot of making the big club out of spring training, especially with lack of depth in Houston’s bullpen and the injury to Lance McCullers, Jr.

Only three years removed from his departure from Cuba, Cionel Pérez has accomplished his dream and reached the big leagues.

A rough 2019

Although Perez won his first game in the big leagues on June 8th, the young lefty was hit pretty hard last year.  A nagging forearm injury that hampered him last year might have contributed to that.

His 10.00 ERA was the highest of his career and his velocity seemed to be off in various last year. A fastball that is in the mid to high 90’s was barely touching 92, the forearm injury could have attributed to that.

Looking forward to 2020

The departure of Gerrit Cole was a big loss for the Houston Astros but it might have opened the door for the young Cuban southpaw.

Well rested and recovered from his ailments of last season,  the young man from Camarioaca, Cuba is looking to impress the Astros brass and break camp with the big club.

“I’ve prepared this offseason for the rigors of a long season. We’ve done a lot of strength training we’re hoping this will prevent the nagging injuries that hampered me last season.”

“I’m focused on having an impressive spring so I can break camp with the big club. I’ve spent the off-season fine-tuning my breaking pitches. I’m looking to do big things in my third season in the Majors.”

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With the determination he has expressed and with his the tireless preparation he has incurred this off-season the planets might just be aligning for Cionel Perez to be a factor for the Houston Astros this season.