Salvador Perez recently turned just 30 years old, but he’s already one of the best KC Royals of all-time. How close is he to being in the top 10 WAR-wise?
Salvador Perez has emerged as a fan-favorite and one of the best players the KC Royals have ever had take the field at Kauffman Stadium. Although he celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month, he’s already close to cementing his legacy just a bit more.
Perez played in 115 games between 2011 and 2012, posting a .311/.339/.471 line (that would turn out to be uncharacteristic of him in due time). He’d then go on to make six consecutive All-Star teams, building a reputation as a wall behind the plate, a tremendous leader and someone opposing baserunners shouldn’t even consider trying to steal on. Perez’s arm is perhaps his best trait.
Over the years, Perez has taken on one of the league’s most excessive workloads — especially at the catcher position. His overall profile at the plate is far from what he showed in his first few seasons, as he’s traded power for on-base numbers. He hit 27 home runs in back-to-back seasons (2017 and 2018) before missing the entire 2019 season with a torn UCL.
Tommy John surgery is as serious an operation as they come in the MLB. A delayed start to this season likely helped Perez as much as — if not more than — any player in the league. He’s had additional time to work his way back from a season-ending injury and is now well over a year removed from everything. The rest of his body hasn’t logged a regular-season inning since 2018.
As things currently stand, Perez ranks 18th on the KC Royals’ all-time WAR list at 22.1. He’s just 4.2 WAR out of the tenth spot, which is held by former Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Zack Greinke. In his last four healthy seasons, Perez has been worth an average of 2.5 WAR per season. It’s safe to assume he’ll pass Greinke at some point in the future, but when?
If we have an abbreviated 2020 season, Perez could be worth something close to a single win. We’ll pencil him in for 1.0 WAR this year. All things considered, that’s not a bad estimate. His playing time won’t be anywhere close to normal, but perhaps his bat will rebound a bit due to a lack of innings logged recently. That leaves him 3.2 WAR away from the No. 10 spot heading into 2021.
The last time Perez was worth more than 2.9 WAR? 2014, when he posted a 3.6-win season. That version of himself probably isn’t coming back. He can come close to it, though. Even if Perez doesn’t quite get to 3.2, that makes him a near-lock to pass Greinke in 2022. In a realistic scenario, that’s when he’d crack the top 10.
In a best-case scenario, Perez is impressive enough in 2020 that he parlays that into a great 2021 season, arriving at our goal a year early. In the worst case, he’s a shell of himself and takes until 2023 as a 1-to-1.5-win player to pass Greinke. Either way, he’ll retire ahead of him on the leaderboard.
Salvador Perez should still have several productive years of baseball ahead of him that will allow him to make it into the top 10 in career WAR as a Royal. How quickly he gets there, as well as how many more players he can jump, is up to him.