Jack Perkins had high expectations for himself when he first stepped foot on Louisville’s campus as a freshman in 2018. Although, his collegiate career hasn’t always transpired exactly likely he envisioned it would, Perkins has developed into one of college baseball’s top pitchers over the last two years.
In his freshman season in the spring of 2019, Perkins, a right-handed pitcher, showed encouraging results until suffering a late-season injury. In the 2019 ACC Tournament, Perkins pitched just one inning in relief against Clemson before experiencing arm pain.
Perkins underwent an MRI the next day, and the doctors discovered that he had torn his UCL. He had Tommy John surgery and that sidelined him until earlier this year. Perkins didn’t pitch in the abbreviated spring season but received innings this summer and displayed promising results.
“It has been a gradual progression throughout the summer,” Perkins said. “Getting back into things and back to in-game intensity was an adjustment the first couple weeks and something I hadn’t done in a year. But this is the best I’ve felt even before surgery.
“I had some elbow discomfort before, but it was nothing severe where I had to get it checked out. Right now, I am feeling really healthy and confident and strong with how my summer went.”
The Atlanta Braves selected Perkins in the 39th round of the 2018 MLB draft out of Kokomo High School in Indiana. But Perkins didn’t sign and attended Louisville instead.
The decision has paid off for Perkins, who projects as an early-round pick in the 2021 draft. The right-handed pitcher has all the intangibles to succeed as a starter in the pro ranks, but professional scouts want to see consistent, high-level production from him in his redshirt sophomore season.
Perkins believes going through the draft process as a high school senior will assist him in preparing for the 2021 draft as a redshirt sophomore at Louisville in the spring.
“For me, I think it’s a lot less stressful,” Perkins said. “Going through college and going through that whole experience, I think it’s showed me that I love baseball and that I want to make a career out of it. But at the same time, there are so many more aspects to my life that I’ve found going through the college process.
“I have also watched two other classes before me go through it. Seeing how other people have handled it and knowing I have my education behind me has been a stress reliever. In high school, I wasn’t as mature as I am now, and all my focus was on getting drafted.”
Perkins made 16 appearances, including four starts, as a freshman at Louisville in 2019. He posted a 4.18 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 18 walks allowed in 32 1/3 innings.
His injury at the end of his freshman campaign sidelined him the entire 2020 season. Perkins hoped to be fully healthy and ready to pitch in time for the NCAA tournament this year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the college baseball season ended in mid-March.
Perkins continued rehab until he made his return with the Snapping Turtles of the Grand Park Summer League this summer. He showed he was healthy and experienced success this summer. In 18 1/3 innings, Perkins recorded a 2.45 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed.
Perkins is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound right-hander who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, changeup, cutter, and curveball. His four-seam fastball is a high-spin pitch that sat 91 to 94 mph and touched 95 mph this summer. That velocity is similar to what he was reaching before his injury, and Perkins expects to sit closer to the mid-90s once he adds more strength to his frame.
His two-seamer, which he categories as “more of a sinker,” sits in the low-90s and displays notable arm-side run. His changeup has potential and showed promise this summer when at times, it was his best pitch.
Perkins recently developed a cutter, which reaches 89 to 91 mph and sits in upwards of 2,800 revolutions per minute, he said. He also throws his curveball, which some categorize as a slider, in the low-80s, and it features tight late break.
“I think my breaking ball is my biggest strength,” Perkins said. “I think that got noticed a lot during my freshman year. But I think right now the biggest strength I am seeing is progress. I think one of the biggest things people want to see is the command. People want to see that progress and see that command get better. Some people only see me as a bullpen guy, and that’s something I’ve taken to heart.”
Perkin’s goal this summer was to show progression since his injury. Moving forward, he wants to refine his command, especially since he has the confidence in all of his pitches and believes he can be a starting pitcher long-term.
“Fastball command is something I want to improve on,” Perkins said. “I saw it this summer that anytime I was ahead in the count, it really benefited my success rate. The times I would get behind in the count, I maybe wouldn’t be throwing the secondary pitches as confidently as I would have liked. I want to get ahead in counts because the success rate is substantial.”
Read more stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.