2018 Royals Season Preview – Salvador Perez

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 23: Salvador Perez
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 23: Salvador Perez /

Seven years ago, Salvador Perez made his major league debut. Over the years, he’s traded batting average and on-base ability for power. One thing has stayed consistently great: his defense. Now a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, Perez has cemented himself as one of the best catchers in the game. Coming off a career-best 2017, he’ll be looking to carry that momentum over into this season. 

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Drew Butera, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Butera is a fan-favorite and one of the better backup catchers in the game. He makes it a lot easier to give Salvador Perez some much-needed rest. All things considered, the team is lucky to have these two guys behind the plate on any given day.

Salvador Perez has truly turned into a superstar and with the (still) possible departures of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, he’ll be the face of the franchise in 2018 and beyond. A player who started out hitting near .300 and failing to go yard 15 times has turned into a perennial ~.260, 20+ home run hitter. Through the good and the bad, Perez has been a mainstay behind the plate for the Royals. The 27-year-old is coming off a career season, but can he do even better in 2018?

What did he offer last season?

Perez played in 129 games in 2017, down from 139 the year before. The interesting thing is: he did even better in fewer games. Perez raised his home run total (22 to 27), RBI total (64 to 80) and batting average (.247 to .268) while lowering his strikeouts. Oh yeah, his slugging percentage and OBP (on-base + slugging) improved as well. Perez did, however, battle an intercostal strain in the second half of the year that hindered him a bit. Notorious for his late-season slumps, last year it was attributed to injury. Look at these numbers:

  • First half of the season: .290 BA, 18 HR, 57 RBI
  • Second half of the season: .230 BA, 9 HR, 23 RBI

Those splits aren’t very encouraging, but they’re expected. Considering Perez always slumps in the second half of the year and adding in the injury, this was foreseeable. The Royals need to do a better job of giving their star catcher some days off earlier in the season, but we can save that conversation for the comments. Overall, it was still arguably Perez’s best season to date and one we can expect to see for the next few years.

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer projects even fewer games for Perez in 2018 and a bit worse results:

  • 121 games played (down from 129)
  • .263 batting average (down from .268)
  • 23 HR (down from 27)
  • 72 RBI (down from 80)
  • .298 OBP (nearly identical to .297)
  • .467 SLG (down from .495)

I’m going out on a limb here: I don’t expect Ned Yost to increase days off by too much. I’m taking slightly over 121 games (assuming good health). Set to turn just 28 in May, this could be Perez’s best season as a Royal. I expect a higher batting average, OBP and slugging percentage than Steamer‘s projections in 2018. With more than 121 games played, I also expect more than 23 HR and 72 RBI. It’s going to be difficult to top the 27 HR and 80 RBI Perez had a year ago, but the percentages should all be high and will provide more well-rounded stats. It seems that the projection systems are thinking about potential off-days or injuries (Baseball Reference‘s projections are low as well). 2018 should be a very good year for Perez, other projections aside. He’ll be able to hold off fatigue for another year.

The verdict

Salvador Perez is undoubtedly one of the best catchers in baseball. He hasn’t always been the most consistent hitter but when considering he has one of the best gloves/arms the Royals have seen in recent memory, it’s a fair tradeoff. .260 batting, 25 HR-hitting catchers that also play fantastic defense are hard to come by. If first-half Perez shows up for the entire season – look out. If he succumbs to his yearly second-half slump, it should still be a very solid year for the veteran catcher. Getting in shape helped his game last season, so let’s hope it can lead to even more success in 2018.

In case you missed Perez calling his old buddy Lorenzo Cain at Fan Fest, I’ve left it here for you:

What do you think, Royals fans? Can Salvy continue to play great baseball in 2018? Is the wear and tear of playing so many games going to catch up to him? Will the team give him enough rest? Let us know what you have to say!