Salvador Perez is a three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and a World Series MVP. What now?
As the Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected starting lineup. So far, we have looked at
Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, and Wade Davis. Today, we will be looking at Salvador Perez
"2015 stats – .260/.280/.426, 21 HR, 70 RBI, 2.4 BB%, 87 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR2016 Steamer – .273/.302/.432, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 3.6 BB%, 97 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR"
Projected Role – Starting Catcher
Salvador Perez is both an example of why advanced statistics are important, as well as why they are not all-powerful.
On the surface, it would seem that Perez was pretty good in 2015.
.260 hitter, with over 20 homers from a catcher? Who wouldn’t take that.
However, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that those numbers are pretty deceptive.
Despite the decent batting average for a catcher (league average among qualified catchers was .261), his on-base skills were still well below average (.280 compared to qualified catcher league average of .321).
In fact, only one qualified catcher had a lower OBP in 2015 than Perez.
Similarly, despite the 21 home runs (the third most among qualified catchers), Perez’s SLG% was barely above the league average for catchers (.426 compared to .416)
Despite all of that, it’s hard to look at a guy that hit 21 home runs, as a premiere defender at the position, and not see value. His case is why it is important to look at these statistics with context.
So it’s important to realize that despite his struggles, he is still very valuable.
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With that being said, 2015 was Perez’s worst season as a major leaguer, and it’s not all that close.
In fact, his 1.6 fWAR over 142 games barely outpaced his 1.2 fWAR posted in 2011, his debut season in which he only played 39 games.
This, unfortunately, is more of a trend than it is a blip on the radar.
Since 2012, Perez’s wRC+ has regressed each season, beginning with his career high 114 mark, and progressing to 106, 92, and 87 marks.
Oddly enough, during that span we have seen an increase in home runs each year, going 11, 13, 17, and 21. (It should be noted that his 2012 season only spanned 76 games and that his .471 SLG% that season was hit best mark by a sizable margin.)
As a hitter, Perez’s value is going to be found in his power. The one consistency Sal has shown throughout his career has been the inability to get on-base, which basically negates his fairly solid hit tool.
Unless his on-base skills suddenly improve, he is not going to provide any substantial value as a hitter without power.
He does, however, provide value defensively.
On the surface, he’s a three-time defending Gold Glove winner at catcher. Below the surface, the metrics like him as well.
His yearly defensive fWAR has consistently kept his fWAR from plunging into the negative.
The one area of his defensive game that is doubted is his arm, only throwing out 28% of would be base stealers in 2015.
However, 2015 was the first season of his career in which he threw out less than 30% of his runners, and he was on the receiving end of guys like Edinson Volquez and Chris Young who are notoriously slow to the plate.
You know, this is a little bit tougher than most of the other players we’ve discussed.
Sal is almost immune to expectations, simply because his ridiculously cheap contract will automatically give him some added value and because he’s a catcher.
At that, Perez is one of the best in the game at calling games and handling pitchers.
We also see plays like this and are reminded of how gifted of an athlete Sal really is.
Hit bat is often included in that exempted category. Franchise catchers are hard to come by, and most would agree that Perez is one.
Any added expectation offensively is because we have all seen the upside his bat still has.
He has some of the quickest hands in baseball, that allowing his swing to stay short and compact while still generating legitimate bat speed.
He has also proven to be one of the few Royals in recent years with the ability to hit the ball in the air with consistency while also maintaining his abnormal high contact skills.
When I say abnormal, I don’t mean abnormally high in a vacuum. He has consistently posted above-average contact numbers, but what makes them abnormal is his lack of strikeouts has not been accompanied by a bump in OBP.
This is the basement of Perez offensive value.
Perez has been been a top-tier catcher in terms of power and defense for the last two years. He should be a top-tier catcher, but has been seen his value take a huge hit due to his complete inability to get on base.
To put that into context, Sal walked just 9 times in 553 PA last season, not including his four intentionally walks. That’s good for just 1.6% of his plate appearances.
This can be attributed to his outrageous 43.3% swing rate at balls out of the zone.
That’s really what will make or break Sal as a hitter.
He’s only 25 and we see the power and the bat speed. We see his ability to get his hands through the zone and get the ball in the air.
If he can just swing at less balls, we could see a whole different guy offensively^.
^”If he can swing at less balls,” is the same thing scouts are saying about Raul Mondesi Jr. at this very moment. So get used to that conversation, because I’m guessing it’s not the last time you’ll hear it.
Will that happen? Who knows. He has had over 2,000 at-bats and made no adjustment up until this point.
But we were just saying the same thing about Mike Moustakas a year ago.
As they say, with age will come a solidified hitting approach, hopefully.
I got that right, didn’t I?