The KC Royals have been pretty fortunate when it comes to catchers. Such competent backstops as Darrell Porter, John Wathan, Jim Sundberg, Jamie Quirk, Bob Boone, and Mike McFarlane have all worked behind the plate for the club.
But as his performance and impressive array of awards and honors — eight All-Star Game appearances, five Gold Gloves, a team record four Silver Sluggers, and two Robert Clemente Award nominations — prove, no Kansas City catcher has impacted the franchise and city more positively than Salvador Perez. He's a lock for the Royals Hall of Fame, and his name pops up occasionally as a candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Perez, though, is not without his critics; there aren't many, but they exist, and were most vocal near last summer's trade deadline when, motivated at least in part by their view that he was in decline, a notion spurred by his .246 average and .289 OBP as the All-Star Break began, they responded favorably to the many rumors predicting the Royals had him on the market.
How close, if close at all, the club was to moving him may never be known, but Perez remains a Royal as of this writing and begins preparations for his 13th Kansas City season when pitchers and catchers begin spring training workouts Wednesday. It's then that many will resume looking for confirmatory signs that he is, or isn't, actually in a steady state of decline.
Last season didn't prove Salvador Perez is near the end of his career
Those concerned about Perez's 2023 midseason numbers weren't entirely off base. Yes, he'd homered 15 times, but his average and OBP left room for much improvement, and he wasn't throwing out as many runners as fans had become accustomed to.
At the end of the campaign, though, and except for the percentage of runners he caught stealing (14%, well below his career average), Perez's numbers, including his 23 homers and 80 RBI, compared favorably with past performance. Grossly exaggerated were cries that he was over the hill.
How FanGraphs projects Salvador Perez's 2024 Kansas City season
FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) predicts Perez will slash .256/.299/.448, hit 25 homers, and drive in 63 runs in 139 games.
How will Salvador Perez actually perform for the KC Royals this year?
Anyone expecting Perez to repeat his monster 2021 season, when he slammed a club record-tying 48 home runs and led the American League in RBI with 121, will likely be disappointed. Great players always have that standout "career year" and 2021 was almost certainly his.
But don't expect a bad season from him, either. He's always plays with a purpose, and the improvements general manager J.J. Picollo spent the winter making, especially to the pitching staff Perez will handle, may spark even more intensity from Perez.
If he stays healthy, a prospect rendered more likely considering the club's increasing willingness to deploy him more frequently at first base and DH, look for Perez to improve his 2023 numbers this season. Not unreasonable to expect are 30 home runs, 75 RBI, and a .265 average. And don't be surprised if he brings that CS% back up.