MILWAUKEE -- Right-hander Wily Peralta is the Brewers' top prospect and the 49th best prospect in baseball, according to a MLB.com list unveiled Wednesday night.
Peralta and left-hander Jed Bradley (ranked 97th) are the only Brewers farmhands to make the Top 100 Prospects list. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2012.
This year's edition of MLB.com's Top Prospects list has expanded from 50 to 100 players. The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com's Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams.
The Brewers hope to soon reap some rewards from their patience with the hard-throwing, large-framed Peralta, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 for a $450,000 bonus. He rebounded from a tough 2011 Spring Training to post a breakthrough season in the Minors, going 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville.
At the higher level, Peralta, now 22, was 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in five starts, with 40 strikeouts versus 11 walks.
It was a welcome bounce-back after Peralta fizzled in a spring bid for the Brewers' fifth-starter slot. The team had an opening after Zack Greinke cracked a rib and fellow prospect Mark Rogers had a setback with his surgically-repaired shoulder. But handed the opportunity, Peralta struggled with command in Cactus League starts. He allowed five earned runs on five hits and two walks while recording only one out in his final outing against the Rockies and was optioned to the Minors on March 25.
"I don't think you can really judge a player by Spring Training because there are too many variables," Brewers farm director Reid Nichols said. "He's obviously a power arm, and he's right there. He could figure in our [Major League] plans soon. I think it's just been a natural progression. He's going to continue to get better."
Last spring, manager Ron Roenicke was careful not to criticize Peralta, who was still just 21 years old at the time. But as Roenicke praised another rotation candidate, eventual winner Marco Estrada, it was easy to connect the dots to Peralta.
"He's a strike-thrower," Roenicke said of Estrada. "He's not going to be intimidated [by] the situation of pitching in the big leagues. He's a guy that's done it, and that's really important.
"These guys that are starting these games, we're not expecting them to throw six shutout innings. They need to get us a good, quality outing, and I think some guys think, 'This is my one shot,' that, 'I've got to show them.' That's not really fair to put that on a guy."
Peralta appears ticketed for a return to Triple-A this season. The Brewers' big league rotation is returning intact, and Estrada will return as a swingman, ready to step in for an injured teammate.
Bradley, 21, is farther from the big leagues. The left-hander from Georgia Tech was one of the Brewers' two first-round picks in last year's First-Year Player Draft, taken 15th overall, three slots after right-hander Taylor Jungmann. Bradley signed too late to pitch in the Minor Leagues but did make five appearances in the Arizona Fall League.
"I remember seeing him in the Cape Cod League all-star game last year and not really knowing who Jed was at that time, I said, 'This is a guy we want on our wish list for next year,'" Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid recalled while introducing Bradley in August. "I've been saying that all along, and here he is today. So, you know, wishes do come true."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.