'08 Detroit Tigers' 1st Round pick Ryan Perry was recognized as having the Best Fastball and Slider and was ranked the second-best prospect in the organization by Baseball America's Jon Morosi in November of 2008 after just 14 games and 13.2 IP in relief for the Gulf Coast Tigers and Class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers following his selection the previous June. The right-hander out the University of Arizona was behind only '07 1st Round pick Rick Porcello on the Top 10 Prospects list. Perry was taken 21st overall in 2008 after a junior year in which he was (6-3) in 29 games (6 GS) and 70.1 IP over which he had a 3.07 ERA, one save, 69 K's (8.83 K/9) and a .218 BAA.
As noted in an article on Perry's selection in the '08 Draft by MLB.com writer Jason Beck entitled, "Tigers pluck power arm in Round 1", the right-hander was the fourth power arm in five years selected by the Tigers, who'd chosen Justin Verlander ('04), Andrew Miller ('06) and Rick Porcello ('07) in previous years. Detroit's scouting director David Chadd, it's mentioned, was also the scouting director in Boston who oversaw the selection of Jonathan Papelbon in the 4th Round of the '03 Draft. Chadd compared Perry to Paplebon at the time, telling MLB.com's Mr. Beck that the right-hander could start for the Tigers or continue to work in relief since he'd had success after moving to the bullpen in Arizona.
Much like the talk about Nats' 2011 1st Round pick Alex Meyer, the Tigers' scouting director said at the time that with Perry, "I think you can use him either way. I think he has the delivery and the arm action to start. But it's up to the preference of the organization.'" As mentioned in the article, Perry found success working as a reliever in college:
"Perry owns a 6-3 record and 3.07 ERA in 29 appearances. When he pitched out of the bullpen, he posted a 1.74 ERA and .179 opposing batting average, scattering 29 hits over 46 2/3 innings with 12 walks and 44 strikeouts.
In MLB.com's '08 Draft preview video, Perry is described as having, "... a fastball that's been clocked as high as 98 mph. He's got a plus changeup and slider that while inconsistent has the chance to be a plus offering as well." The right-hander, the scouting report predicted, could rise fast if used out of the bullpen, "... but it might pay to be patient because arms like this don't come around all that often."
A strong showing in Spring Training in 2009, earned Perry a spot on the Tigers' Opening Day roster. The right-hander gave up just eight hits and one earned run in 11 games and 12.1 IP that Spring, but after struggling with his control and giving up 24 hits, 15 runs, 13 of them earned and 21 walks in 27.1 IP he was sent to Triple-A. Perry returned to the majors a month later and finished the season in the majors. After struggling again to consistently throw strikes in 2010, Perry was placed on the 15-Day DL with bicep tendinitis in June, but he was called back up a month later when Tigers' reliever Joel Zumaya suffered an elbow fracture that ended his season.
In 36 games and 41.0 IP after he was recalled, Perry gave up 33 hits and 12 runs, 11 earned, walking 11 (2.42 BB/9) and striking out 27 (5.92 K/9). The right-hander ended his second major league season with a 3.59 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 6.46 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9 in 60 games and 62.2 IP over which he was (3-5) with two saves. An eye infection cost Perry a few weeks in early 2011, and after once again struggling with control he was sent to Triple-A in late May. After some mechanical changes and success in the minors, Perry was back up and down in June and July, but he put together a strong stretch once he returned to Detroit in August, before a rough end of the season. In 10 games and 8.2 IP in September and October, Perry allowed nine hits, five runs and six walks.
The right-hander ended his third season in Detroit with a (2-0) record, 5.35 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 5.84 K/9 and 5.11 BB/9 in 36 games and 37.0 IP. Perry threw 2.1 scoreless innings in the ALDS in his first postseason action in October of 2011, but the frustration the Tigers felt with his inconsistency after a rocky NLCS (in which he gave up a game-ending grand slam in Game 2) was expressed at the time by GM Dave Dombrowski, who told Detroit News' writer Vincent Goodwill in a post season press conference that it was time for the '08 1st Round pick to step up his game:
"'[Perry is] at the point where he needs to step it up. His arm speaks for itself. We haven't been able to get him over the hump. He needs to do that, we need to do that. When he goes to Triple-A he dominates.'"
After the deal that sent the now-24-year-old Perry to Washington earlier this week for 25-year-old right-hander Collin Balester, Dombrowski was voicing the same concerns, telling The Detroit News' Lynn Hennings in an article entitled, "Tigers trade reliever Ryan Perry To Nationals", that the right-hander, "'... has got to command his fastball on a consistent basis and he's got to be more consistent with his slider.'" Tigers' skipper Jim Leyland too told reporters that it was the inconsistency that he found frustrating, "'He'll throw one of the best sliders you've ever seen,' Leyland said, and the next one isn't good at all — it's left in the middle (of the plate) and spins.'"
Collin Balester, who similarly frustrated the Nationals with his inconsistency over the years, was out of options and with his place in the 2012 Nats' bullpen unclear, the trade to Detroit made sense since the Tigers see the right-hander as a potential long man with the stuff to make the club out of Spring Training. Perry has one more option remaining, and all the potential that made him a 1st Round pick in '08, but the same issues raised before he was drafted continue to plague the reliever, who'll have to hope a change of scenery and instructors can finally straighten him out.
Could he be the right-handed long man Davey Johnson wants? A back-end arm or the Tyler Clippard of the Nats' B-pen? A future set-up man or closer if the Nats decide to deal from their bullpen? Four years after his selection out of the University of Arizona the right-hander has a chance to start again this Spring.