Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's Player Projection series for 2023. In the next few weeks, we'll be analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is Salvador Perez.
The KC Royals finished dead last in the American League Central last season, giving them much to worry and wonder about with spring training now less than a month away. Despite adding several hurlers this winter, questions and uncertainty still cloud a pitching staff that was one of baseball's worst in 2022, little has been done to improve the club at the plate, and no one knows how new manager Matt Quatraro and his revamped coaching staff will handle the team.
One thing the Royals don't want to worry about, though, is their catching, which means they want nothing to trigger lost sleep over seven-time All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, who begins preparation for his 12th big league season when pitchers and catchers officially report to KC's Surprise, Arizona, training camp Feb. 15. But because he hit 25 fewer homers and drove in 45 fewer runs last season than he did in 2021, some might be inclined to assume the Royals are worrying about Perez already.
Perish the thought. The chances of Perez repeating his record-breaking campaign of two years ago weren't great to begin with: after all, and as his 48 home runs, 121 RBIs and .273/.316/.544 line prove, it was his best season ever. So, that he dropped to 23 homers and 76 RBIs and slashed .254/.292/.465 in 2022 wasn't shocking, especially considering he missed almost two months of the season with a thumb issue that required in-season surgery.
Perez's 2022 numbers are nothing for him to be ashamed of or the Royals to worry about. But just how will he do in 2023?
How FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference project Salvador Perez's KC Royals season.
How will KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez actually perform this year?
What Perez's numbers look like after the 2023 season ends depends much on how his body holds up over the collective grind of spring training and the regular season. Perez turns 33 in May, a point in baseball life when, if they haven't already, the rigors of catching begin to take their toll. And Perez's thumb became sore in the final week of last season and forced him out of Kansas City's final few games.
There is no reason to believe, however, that a winter's rest will be anything but good for that thumb, and Perez has no other apparent health issues, meaning he should be ready to go.
Assuming the five-time Gold Glover and four-time Silver Slugger award winner avoids any long trips to the Injured List, look for Perez to once again approach 30 homers, drive in around 80 runs, and raise his average to .265. And although he might DH a few times more than the 40 turns he took at the spot last year, expect him to throw out 30-35% of runners who try stealing against his still-strong right arm and to compete for another Gold Glove.
Salvador Perez should have a good season for the Royals.