You had Jose Peraza hitting nearly .350 during his first 157 PAs with the Cincinnati Reds, right? You and Keith Law, both, I’m sure, especially after the ESPN analyst dropped Peraza off his Top 100 prospect list altogether prior to the start of the 2016 season after the then 21 year old hit just .293 with a .694 OPS in AAA in 2015 (while being traded to a completely new organization mid-season).
Each of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com soured on him some due to those numbers, yet each kept him among their Top 100 due to his youth, contact ability, and speed, and the Reds have certainly been rewarded of late by finally giving him space to shine. The larger question has become, however, exactly where he fits in this ongoing rebuild, since his versatility on defense hasn’t allowed him to knock down one single door. It’s an issue WCPO’s John Fay looked at in the wake of Peraza’s 4 hit afternoon on Wednesday - in a game started by New York Mets’ ace Noah Syndergaard, of all pitchers - as the former Reds beat writer openly wondered how the roster will shake out in Peraza’s favor going forward.
Peraza plays short relatively well, but Zack Cozart will be under contract next year in his final season of team control. Peraza plays 2B relatively well, too, but Brandon Phillips will be making $14 million to play there, has 10/5 rights, and has already vetoed at least two trades that would’ve opened the door for Peraza to play there - not to mention that Dilson Herrera profiles as an MLB-ready 2B right now, too. Billy Hamilton’s presence in CF is likely the long-term plan despite Peraza playing well there, too, and Adam Duvall’s 30 dinger season likely has secured him the near-term rights to LF. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon similarly noted these roadblocks to regular playing time yesterday, too, noting that a move needs to be made to keep the everyday PAs open for Peraza next year.
One scenario not mentioned by either isn’t exactly an ideal solution, but it’s one that now seems like a semi-plausible fallback option should the Reds not find adequate trade partners for Cozart or Phillips this winter. Duvall has appeared in 6 games so far this year in RF, and if the team thinks he can man that corner defensively nearly as well as he’s manned LF (where he’s amassed an impressive 1.2 dWAR so far this year), Peraza could open as the primary starting LF in 2017. It would put Scott Schebler in the 4th OF role, though if the Reds chose to sit each of Cozart and Phillips once a week (and Hamilton once every two weeks, or so), rotating Peraza through those positions would provide both a capable backup at three spots and time for Schebler to play in a Chris Heisey-like role next year. It would also keep Jesse Winker in AAA long enough for his service clock to not cost the Reds a 7th season with him at the big league level, should his career progress as hoped and make that a worthwhile perk.
Peraza’s bat and baserunning skills become infinitely more valuable if he’s manning a premium defensive position, of course, which renders said scenario not the most plausible in a dream rebuild. But it does at least give the Reds an on-paper fallback when they go into any trade negotiations this winter, since teams won’t be able to hold "blocked playing time for Peraza" as leverage against Dick Williams and the Reds’ front office as much as they otherwise would. And that’s a dang nice thing to have in your back pocket.
In other news, the Reds finalized their signing of Cuban righty Vladimir Gutierrez, as Sheldon also noted at Reds.com. It came at a pricey cost, considering the Reds will be essentially paying the $4.75 million bonus twice due to having exceeded their international signing allotment - once to Gutierrez himself, once to MLB as penalty - but they’ve landed a solid prospect in return, at least. MLB Pipeline already has him slotted in as the #5 prospect in the team’s reloaded system, and it’ll be interested to see how the team integrates him into their minor league system since the 20 year old hasn’t played a game since February of 2015. My best guess is that we’ll see him get innings in Winter League ball this year, likely in the Dominican Republic, before landing in Dayton at some point early next year.
Finally, we all learned recently that Joey Votto used Baseball Reference to help hype himself out of his early 2016 slump, looking at other elite hitters in their age 32 seasons that rediscovered success and using that as a motivational tactic. Votto mentioned Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and Derek Jeter when speaking with the legendary Hal McCoy back in August, but there’s one other luminary with whom Votto has managed to almost mirror.
Player A (age 31-32 seasons): .318 avg, .459 OBP, 166 OPS+
Player B (age 31-32 seasons): .313 avg, .448 OBP, 164 OPS+
Said Player A appeared in 237 games during those two seasons, only logging 89 games in his age 31 season due to an injury. Comparing those 237 games played to the most recent 237 games played by Player B, still in his age 32 season, yields additionally entertaining similarities:
Player A: 865 AB, .318 avg, .459 OBP, 52 2B, 58 HR
Player B: 887 AB, .319 avg, .471 OBP, 55 2B, 48 HR
Joey Votto is Player B, in case you’d not discovered that just yet. And while Player A’s slugging percentage is significantly higher than Votto’s in this rudimentary comparison (and deliberately omitted just to piss some of you off), it’s also higher than every player who has ever played MLB baseball before this side of Babe Ruth.
That’s because Player A is the Splendid Splinter himself, Ted Williams. Though if you’d followed Joey through the years, you’d already know he’s idolized Williams since day one.