Franklin Perez, top prospect acquired in Verlander trade, makes solid start in return from injury

Detroit Tigers' No. 3 prospect makes start for Lakeland Flying Tigers

Detroit Tigers prospect Franklin Perez pitches during a minor league game at the TigerTown Facility on March 6, 2018, in Lakeland, Florida. (Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

DETROIT – Franklin Perez, the Detroit Tigers' No. 3 prospect and the top player acquired in the Justin Verlander trade, returned from the injured list to make a solid start in Lakeland.

Perez has been on the injured list four times since the Tigers traded Verlander for him, Jake Rogers and Daz Cameron in August 2017. He had pitched only 23.1 innings in the organization before Tuesday's return.

His only appearance of the season came May 15 against the Clearwater Threshers. Perez allowed one run on four hits and three walks over four innings, striking out three. He generated just two swinging strikes.

On Tuesday, Perez took the mound against the St. Lucie Mets, throwing 62 pitches across 3.1 innings. He allowed one run on three hits and two walks while striking out three batters.

It wasn't a dominant outing, but it was a good first step for Perez, who simply needs to have a couple of healthy months to get back into a rhythm.

As an 18-year-old in 2016, Perez struck out 75 batters in 66.2 innings while posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. That earned him the No. 41 overall spot on MLB's prospect rankings, and he was the No. 1 prospect in the Tigers' organization when he arrived.

An injury-laden 2018 dropped him to No. 67 in the rankings last year, and he now sits at No. 63 overall due to players above him graduating from prospect status.

Perez sits behind 2018 first-round pick Casey Mize, the No. 2 overall prospect, and 2016 first-round pick Matt Manning, the No. 33 overall prospect, in the Tigers' system.

Since he doesn't even turn 22 years old until December, there's still reason to hope Perez can develop into the front-of-the-rotation pitcher. If the injuries continue to pile up, though, that Verlander trade will go down as a massive missed opportunity early in the rebuild.