KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez just captured two more awards, but there’s something he hasn’t won.
While baseball’s virtual Winter Meetings occupied the KC Royals this week, Salvador Perez has been winning more awards.
Kansas City’s perennial fountain of exuberance, enthusiasm and love of the game started Wednesday by being named to the first-team catcher’s slot on the 2020 All-MLB team, beating out second-team backstop J.T. Realmuto, one of baseball’s most highly coveted free agents.
Then, on Thursday, and in recognition of his stellar performance after missing the entire 2019 campaign, Major League Baseball named Perez its American League Comeback Player of the Year Award winner for 2020.
Fans and a group of experts voted on the All-MLB Team; mlb.com’s team beat writers voted on the Comeback award.
That Perez, who’s played his entire nine-year career in Kansas City, won the two awards is no shock considering the present state of his trophy case. He’s a six-time American League All-Star; his streak of six straight selections was broken only by his injury-induced absence from the game in 2019. He’s won five Gold Gloves. The Silver Slugger he captured last month is his third, and Sporting News named him its All-Star catcher for 2020. He was the Most Valuable Player of the 2015 World Series and has a World Series ring.
What might be surprising about these latest pair of honors is that Perez earned them despite playing less than two-thirds of the shortened 2020 campaign. That doesn’t diminish his winning the awards; to the contrary, it proves how impressive his performance was.
Perez hadn’t played in an official game for over 21 months when the KC Royals opened the season in late July—he suffered a UCL injury during 2019 spring training, had corrective Tommy John surgery, then missed the entire season recovering and rehabilitating. COVID-19 interrupted his comeback when it brought the game to a mid-March halt, then hit him last summer and further sidetracked his preparations for the 2020 campaign.
If that wasn’t enough, left eye issues blurred Perez’s vision in August and forced him to the Injured List when he was slashing .307/.326/.511; just six days before the effective date of the move, his slash was .329/.341/.557. He missed 20 games, but came back good as new Sept. 11 and finished the season with, all things considered, a remarkable 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and .333/.353/633 line in just 37 games.
What Perez might have achieved in a full season makes his 2020 even more impressive. Extrapolation based on the number of games he typically plays during a complete campaign suggest that, among other feats, he would have hit 44 homers and collected 200 hits.
So, with all his hardware and honors, what’s left for Salvador Perez to accomplish as an individual?
A Most Valuable Player Award. And it’s not a pipedream. Not with the kind of season Perez just had.
Perez looked better than ever at the plate, and it wasn’t a matter of just hitting a hot streak for a few games. He sustained his improvement throughout the short campaign, and hitting as well as he did for 37 games is no small feat. He seemed to have developed some new plate discipline—he didn’t appear to lunge at his old nemesis, the low and away pitch, as often as he has in the past. Perez looked invigorated and revitalized after missing a season.
He didn’t miss a beat defensively: he was errorless behind the plate for the second consecutive season, and once again threw out would-be base stealers at a rate above league average.
And no matter the year, Perez is so many things to the Royals. He is their engine, their backbone, their spirit.
Perez, who’s entering the final year of his KC Royals contract and will become a free agent at season’s end unless the club extends him (it needs to), stands a good chance to be an MVP if he can approach his 2020 numbers, and intangibles, for a full season. He has the talent, dedication and will to do it, and his chances will improve as his team improves. An MVP is not impossible for Perez.
It’s the only thing he hasn’t won yet.
Salvador Perez has many good years ahead of him. There’s time to win a Most Valuable Player Award.