Salvador Perez was impressive in a short sample last year. In 39 MLB games, he posted a 1.4 WAR with a 128 OPS +. The Royals quickly locked up the 22 year old catcher from Venezuela.
I never got to really evaluate the contract that Perez signed with the Royals because, frankly, I didn’t know a ton about him. The Royals signed him to a 21.75-26.75 million dollar deal over 5 years with 3 option years. According to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star, “Perez will make $750,000 this season with base guarantees of $1 million in 2013, $1.5 million in 2014, $1.75 million in 2015 and $2 million in 2016. The Royals hold club options, with no buy-out clauses, for $3.75 million in 2017, $5 million in 2018 and $6 million in 2019.”
Of course, Perez was hurt in Spring Training and has yet to play a MLB game since signing his new contract. He has started his rehab assignment in Omaha, the AAA affiliate for the Royals. This gave me an opportunity to watch him and do a write up on him.
I watched him Friday against Round Rock. He faced Greg Reynolds, who is frankly, a very terrible pitcher. In 27 big league appearances, Reynolds struck out less than 4 batters per 9 innings and had a WHIP of 1.69. Despite a decent ERA this year in AAA, he is striking out less than 4 per 9 innings and less than twice as many as he has walked. In his first at-bat, leading off the 2nd (he batted cleanup), Perez took two low moving fastballs to get ahead 2-0. Another moving fastball caught the low part of the zone and Perez smashed it hard toward the third base line. The 3rd baseman stopped the grounder, but that was all he could do and Perez reached on a single. In his 2nd at-bat Perez got a high fastball and actually rolled over on it, but it got by the 2nd baseman for a single. In his 3rd at-bat, he took 3 low moving fastballs around the low corner to get ahead 2-1. Reynolds then went outside again, but this one got up a little bit, and Perez slapped it the other way for a line drive single.
In the 6th inning, Perez faced another pitcher with a little bit of MLB experience, Mark Hamburger. Hamburger has mostly struggled so far in his AAA career, with almost 10 hits per 9 innings and a 5.31 ERA. Perez saw just one pitch, one low that appeared out of the zone. It was also somewhat inside, so Perez just pulled it and it got through the infield for his 4th hit and yet another single.In the 8th, he faced Johan Yan, who usually murders right handed hitting with a low arm slot and breaking pitches. Yan struck out Wil Myers swinging and rather easily. Yan came inside to start the at-bat, and Perez took it. Yan then threw a pitch down the middle, but Perez took that too. Everything looks like a change-up with Yan. Another pitch exactly like the 2nd one was fouled off before one came inside and nearly hit him. After a low breaking pitch made the count full, Yan threw one on the low part of the zone and Perez made just enough contact to bloop it over the 2nd baseman’s head.
As far as other tools go, it appears he runs well (especially for a guy coming off an injury) for a catcher. He isn’t going to blow anyone away with his speed, but he isn’t a base clogger either. Defensively, Perez has all the tools to be a very good defensive catcher. He catches the ball well, is a good receiver and pitch framer, along with being a plus pitch blocker. I didn’t get much of a read on his arm, but he caught just 21 % of runners last year (28% was league average).
Overall, it looks like he isn’t a real patient hitter, as it looks like he will swing at the first pitch a lot, as he did in the game I saw him. He also doesn’t seem to have a ton of power, but he has good bat skills, with the ability to make a lot of contact, even if it isn’t exceptionally hard contact. He showed this in the big leagues as well, seeing just 3.55 Pit/PA, walking just 4.4 % of the time, and striking out just 12.7% of the time. He benefited from a monster .362 BABIP, inflating his numbers greatly (if you adjusted his OBP to a .300 BABIP, it would be just a .304 OBP, not very good at all). In the minors, Perez never had more than 114 games at any level and that was in Rookie ball in 2007-2008. There isn’t much use in looking at those numbers. Overall in the minors (in 343 games), Perez hit a very unimpressive .287/.329/.399. As expected, contact (at 96) is his best rating according to the Baseball Cube. It labels his speed at just 18 and his power at just 34 with just 22 patience. It is worth noting that he was younger than average at every single stop he made in the minors, so that may be something that kept his numbers down.
On Saturday, he DH’ed and went 0 for 5 with 2 strikeouts swinging, and 3 ground-outs. If I saw that game, my judgment of Perez would probably be harsher. Selection bias is something you always have to consider when watching a player play. You may catch him on his worst or best day. It is hard to tell what the Royals have in Perez. It seems like they have a good defensive catcher that can hit for an empty average. How good he is and will be defensively, along with whether he will develop more polish or power at the plate, is yet to be seen. Remember, he is still 5 years away from what we would call his prime. By that time, it will be time for his option years to kick in. With this contract, he doesn’t have to perform highly for it to be worth it. If he turns out to be just an okay or slightly below average catcher, the contract still makes a lot of sense.