In recent years, the Toronto Blue Jays have seen their farm system become one of the more underrated ones in the league. While there won't be a ton of names featured in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, there are still plenty of young guns worth knowing in this system.
One of them is a 20-year-old righty who only just made his professional debut last season. His high school coaches couldn't help but hand out comparisons to a Hall of Famer and and seems to be well on his way to becoming the "next big thing" out of the Blue Jays system.
Nolan Perry hails from Carlsbad, New Mexico and was selected by the Blue Jays in the 12th round of the 2022 MLB Draft. He is a quiet, humble young man who is looking to follow up an extremely successful high school career with one in the big leagues.
Dating back to his early years, Perry was born into a baseball family. His father, Tim Perry, was a minor league pitcher for the Padres from 1997 to 1999. He finished his career with a 5.18 ERA in 40 outings, but multiple shoulder surgeries derailed his career and he never made it above A-ball.
Despite the fact that Tim's professional career came to a close before Nolan was even born, the love of the sport never left the family. At just six years old, the younger Perry began throwing and learning how to play. It certainly helped that Carlsbad, as Perry called it in an interview with Jays Journal, was a "massive baseball town."
A high school standout
Attending high school in Carlsbad, Perry was one of the very best to suit up for a Cavemen squad that won the 2021-2022 championship. In 66 innings of work that year, the right-hander posted video game-like numbers. Allowing only 24 hits in that time, he struck out 115 batters and walked only nine. Even more impressive is the fact that he also hit .436 with 8 home runs, 37 runs scored and 34 RBI while playing shortstop for the Cavemen. This performance earned him the Gatorade New Mexico Baseball Player of the Year award, making him just the sixth player from Carlsbad to ever receive such an honor.
Perry played under popular head coach Cody May in his junior and senior years. In that time, he turned May into a true believer in him and what his future would look like. "He's such a good kid, by far one of the best baseball players I've ever seen in person," May said in a phone call with Jays Journal. "The talent is there and he's going to show that as he advances through the league. I enjoyed watching him grow as a person and a player."
"Before I met [Coach May], I knew he had a reputation for being tough. When we met, he was everything I'd heard about and more," Perry recalled. "He taught me to be a better person and to play the game hard. I always gave it everything I had when playing under him."
When the Blue Jays selected him, Perry became just the second player (Trevor Rogers, Marlins LHP) from Carlsbad since 2003 to be drafted. Other notable names from the area include former big leaguers Shane Andrews, Terry Cox, Paxton Crawford and Cody Ross.
May was leading the charge for the Cavemen during the high school careers of both of these players. He sees a lot of Rogers in Perry in that they're both hard workers who always remain calm and collected on the mound. "Neither of them will blow you away with high-heat, but they also won't ever lose their composure", he said. "Aside from one of them being a lefty and the other a righty, there are little to no differences between them. They can throw any pitch at any time with a ton of success. It was awesome to see both of them in-person."
"Nolan's got four pitches that he can command and he consistently impressed us with his excellent strike-throwing abilities. There's no doubt he'll move up quickly through the minors", May continued. "He is a pitcher, not just a thrower. He reminds me a lot of Greg Maddux on the mound. I grew up watching Maddux and to be able to see Nolan pick batters apart like Maddux did was always special."
The MLB Draft
Prior to the 2022 MLB Draft, Perry had drawn widespread interest from teams around the league. The Yankees, Padres, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Braves, Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Brewers, Rays, Pirates and Blue Jays were all in regular attendance of his outings.
Perry had a commitment to Texas Tech prior to the draft, one that he fully intended on pursuing before the Blue Jays called his name. "Texas Tech was my dream school, but to see a career in pro ball dangled before me, it was a no-brainer", he said. "I'd be starting a career in the minors with some of the best coaches around, so to jump in there and get my career started early was very important to me."
He goes on to say that there haven't been any regrets whatsoever in this decision. Not many of us get to pick between attending a dream school or starting a professional baseball career, and that is something that Perry is aware of. He's living the dream of so many before him..
While Perry was drafted in 2022, he did not make his professional debut until the following year. By the time he was ready for in-game action, the 2022 rookie ball season was coming to a close, and at that point he already had plenty of mileage on his arm.
"I had thrown a ton during my offseason, so by the time the Blue Jays got me built all the way up, the season was over. They had me in extended spring training and I got to experience their amazing Dunedin facility, but didn't quite make it into any games," he said.
In 2023, the right-hander didn't make it past rookie ball, but few at his age do. He made nine appearances (four starts) for the FCL Blue Jays and while his 7.28 ERA doesn't look pretty, it's worth noting that Perry struck out 12 batters per nine innings and allowed under 1.0 HR/9 in his 38-inning cameo. Nine appearances doesn't sound like many, but when you take into consideration that the FCL season is far, far shorter than the big league's, the small amount of appearances makes sense.
Receiving a bit of playing time as both a starter and reliever, Perry's long-term goal is to stick as a starter. He throws four pitches at varying velocities, which is an excellent start for a young pitcher looking to do his part in throwing off hitters.
Here's a look at Perry's repertoire:
- Fourseam fastball: 91-95mph
- Slider: 80-84mph
- Curveball: 75-80mph
- Splitter: 84-86mph
Some of the early returns on Perry and his game have been very positive, and he's already gaining fans in high places. One of them is Joe Sclafani, the Blue Jays' Director of Player Development. "[Perry] is such a great kid", Sclafani said while speaking to Jays Journal. "He's got a mature approach for such a young guy and works his ass off. The results like ERA don't look great, but his process and K-BB numbers are encouraging. We're going to work on adding a tick to the heater and going to put some more time and effort into improving his slider next year".
While he is well aware of how young he is and how much further he has to go, Perry hopes to begin the 2024 season in A-ball. "That's the goal is to begin the year in A-ball and if all goes well, I'd love to be in Vancouver [High-A affiliate] by the end of the season," he said.
"As far as what I'd specifically like to work on next year, I'd like to add some velocity to my fastball," Perry said, echoing Sclafani's sentiment. "I just want to keep my velocity consistent and be able to keep it elevated for extended periods of time. The Blue Jays asked me to get stronger and gain more weight so I can do this easier moving forward."
Baseball America's Geoff Pontes is another person firmly in Perry's corner. In a recent chat on Blue Jays prospects, Pontes said, "Perry might be one of the most intriguing players in the system. I saw him pitch well against the loaded Yankees FCL lineup. Good breaking ball and some more power to come on the fastball potentially."
Nolan Perry is young and unproven and has yet to become a true household name. However, his track record dating back to high school is promising, and the fact that he's drawing the attention of people around the industry does mean something. Keep an eye on him in 2024 as the strides he takes could surprise you.