While other KC Royals struggle, Salvador Perez keeps grinding away

Kansas City's team captain is doing quite well.
William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

The KC Royals, so maddeningly bad for so many years, are suddenly one of the best teams in baseball. Impossible to ignore is their 12-7 record which, heading into Thursday's open date, just happened to be one of the major leagues' best, and makes checking the standings something to look forward to every morning.

This improved team is not, however, free from baseball warts. Some of the veterans general manager J.J. Picollo brought in over the winter, most notably reliever Will Smith and outfielder Hunter Renfroe, haven't produced much, and may be moving toward the top of the list of players Picollo will try to move at the trade deadline ... or earlier.

But the pitching has been excellent, so much so that it was the driving force behind the series win with which Kansas City just escaped Chicago — while the Royals went 17-for-95 (.178) at the plate and scored only seven times in three games, their rotation and bullpen limited the White Sox to four runs.

It is, then, the offense that's sputtering lately; three key players — Maikel García, Kyle Isbel, and Freddy Fermin — are bogged down in concerning slumps and, despite a fifth-place ranking in MLB.com's just-released Hitter Power Ratings, Bobby Witt Jr. is batting .240 since his four-hit game against Houston a week ago.

But while many Kansas City bats have grown cold or getting a bit chilly, one continues to stand out.

It belongs to Salvador Perez. The player some criticized coming into the season as too deep in decline, too expensive, and too old.

Look, though, at what he's doing.

Salvador Perez is having an excellent season so far

Remember when Perez, owner of a franchise record four Silver Sluggers, started the current campaign with two hitless home games? So much has changed since then — he went 13-for-28 in his next seven games, a hot streak during which he collected three hits three different times, homered twice, and drove in nine runs.

And although he's not hitting .464 like he did in those seven contests, he'll enter Friday night's homestand-opening game with Baltimore slashing .324/.370/.574 with a 169 OPS+. He leads the Royals in home runs after clubbing his fifth in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader with the White Sox; the two-run blast put KC ahead for good and accounted for all the team's runs. Perez also tops the club with 17 RBI and his 22 hits are second only to Witt's 25.

He still swings at too many pitches out of the zone, but his 16.4% strikeout rate is the best it's been since the Royals' 2015 World Series season.

How Perez, who quickly overcame the groin injury he suffered Sunday in New York, will finish the season remains to be seen. But while several of his younger teammates struggle, he's been consistently good at the plate. If he keeps it up, don't be surprised to find him in the running for a sixth American League All-Star berth this summer and a fifth Silver Slugger when the season ends.

It will take some work, but Perez is defying his critics again.

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