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The Red Report 2018 - Jose Peraza

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Is the future (of SS) now?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Fast Facts

  • Born on April 30, 1994 in Barinas, Venezuela.
  • Bats: Right Throws: Right
  • Before actually being traded to Cincinnati with Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon, in exchange for Todd Frazier, Peraza was involved in another major trade featuring prominant former Reds including Bronson Arroyo and Mat Latos. What a small world!
  • A former top prospect, he reached as high as the #38 prospect in all of baseball prior to 2015, according to MLBPipeline. Baseball Prospectus was less enthused, ranking him at #92 that season, and #81 prior to 2016.
  • Has played all over the diamond for the Reds since his full time call up in 2016. He played all of 2B, SS, CF, and LF in 2016, and 2B, SS, and CF again in 2017. However, the plan has seemingly always been for Peraza to inherit SS once Zack Cozart departed. That happened this offseason.

Organizational History

Signed by the Atlanta Braves as an amateur free agent on July 2, 2010.
Debut August 10, 2015.
Rookie Status: Exceeded Rookie status during 2016 season.
2018 Contract Status: Pre-Arb Eligible.
Arb Eligible: 2020
Free Agent: 2023

Career Stats:

Scouting Report:

At the plate, Brooks Baseball’s “Hitter at a Glance” description of Jose Peraza is basically everything you need to know. They give a general description of a hitter’s approach against three pitch types (fastballs, breaking balls, and offspeed pitches). Peraza profiles as follows: aggressive, very aggressive, and very aggressive.

Well then.

Just look at this Swing%/Pitch heat map. It’s really hot!

2018 Projections:

Jose Peraza 2018

SOURCE PA HR R RBI SB AVG/OBP/SLG DEF fWAR
SOURCE PA HR R RBI SB AVG/OBP/SLG DEF fWAR
Depth Charts 560 7 58 49 26 .276/.313/.375 6.7 1.1
Steamer 520 7 54 47 23 .279/.317/.379 4.7 1
Fans 571 5 41 48 30 .278/.320/.359 7.2 1.1
ZiPS 560 7 57 47 9 .273/.309/.370 5.2 0.7

Outlook

From the day the deal was done in the 2015/2016 offseason, it has always seemed like the Reds acquisition of Jose Peraza was the first plan for a future without up-the-middle mainstay Zack Cozart.

That seems like an alternate reality from how it ended up playing out. Not only did Cozart eventually recover fully from his devastating 2015 knee injury, he kept up the new offensive numbers from that injury-shortened season. Sure, he played fewer games than he might’ve otherwise, but you can’t argue with the results. Hell, even if he’d only been the 92 OPS+ guy from 2016, it was a damn sight better than any other full season he’d put together.

Instead, of course, Zack Cozart put up a downright Vottonian season in 2017 that had enough people clamoring that maybe, just maybe, the Reds would re-up their longtime SS to an extension. And who the hell knows? Maybe if the Reds were just one year closer to completing the rebuilding. Maybe if Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan had played an entire season. Maybe if one of the ten young pitchers hadn’t plunged the team into dinger hell, the Reds would’ve held on to Cozart and hoped the offense he produced would help propel them to a deeper run sooner than anticipated.

They’re just not quite there yet. Generally, spending large amounts of money on 30-something middle infielders isn’t the best strategy. Doing it when you’re still not quite there doesn’t make much, if any, sense at all.

So, while it seems hard to remember that time and that place, we’ve reached the point that once felt like merely a foregone conclusion: Jose Peraza is your everyday shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds.

Despite Cozart, this reality feels different than it did in the winter of 2015. The reviews were mixed on the trade and the evaluations of Peraza himself, but he still had prospect luster and, at only 21 years old, room to grow. Little did we know other dominoes in the Reds rebuild would let us get a good look at Peraza long before he’d ever need to take over for Cozart.

But has the good look really looked all that good?

Peraza actually played quite a lot in his first season with the Reds. Throughout June and July of 2016, Peraza got fairly regular playing time filling in at 2B, SS, LF, and pinch hitting and running. Still, 81 PAs in a month and a half isn’t exactly the workload you want your potential future up-the-middle cornerstone getting. Plus, he wasn’t exactly doing well (.586 OPS), so he was sent back down for regular reps.

He’d be called back up once more, though, in late August when Cozart’s aforementioned bulky leg, still lingering from the injury, landed him on the DL. Coupled with Billy Hamilton’s annual late season trip to the list, Peraza actually carved out a regular role for the season’s final month.

And that’s when he balled out a bit. From his call-up to the end of the season in 2016, Peraza produced a .366/.387/.484 slash line in the season’s final 163 PAs. That’ll do!

But then, 2017 happened. The Brandon Phillips trade left an everyday role that needed filling and the idea was, with regular playing time, Peraza would be able to continue producing at a level at least somewhat similar to when he received everyday playing time in 2016.

It didn’t happen. Jose put up a full season line of .259/.297/.324 that included a brief benching in the middle of the season for surprise standout Scooter Gennett.

If you’re interested in splits, you can play the endpoints game and make it look better. But there’s not really anything you can do to make it look particularly good, and that’s not great going into a season that once felt inevitable. But what changed from 2016? The swing profile remained largely the same, but in 2017, Peraza made less contact (particularly contact on pitches outside of the strike zone), which presumably led to worse contact overall. His “Soft” hit percentage increased about 7% from 2016 to 2017.

It’s not hard math to do. Less contact + worse contact for a player who swings at damn near everything is not a formula for success. And it probably explains, at least a little bit, how his BABIP dropped from .361 to .293.

It was a bleak season, to be sure, but all is far from being lost. Despite having nearly 775 PAs under his belt, Peraza is still only 23 years old, just a little more than a year older than Nick Senzel, who was just in college like last week. And that’s why this conversation is different than it is for, say, Billy Hamilton. Or maybe better put: that’s why we can have the same conversation about Peraza that we’ve had about Billy for years. There’s still projection here.

Maybe he can walk just a little more. If he doubled his walk rate, he’d STILL only have an 8% BB%, but it would do so much for his impact. He’s not Billy Hamilton fast, but he’s a good baserunner and a threat on the bags. Plus, if he showed a little more willingness to take bad pitches, it stands to reason he’d get more good pitches to barrel up, which is one part of the game he actually excels at.

Even when you disregard the sentimental reasons, it’s going to be much harder to move on from Zack Cozart than it seemed initially. Not only was Cozart a beloved long time member of my favorite baseball team, now all of the sudden he leaves a 5 WAR hole in the middle of the infield that needs filling. Jose Peraza’s going to get a crack at filling it.

How he plays in 2018 will go a long way to proving he can keep it. Or maybe there’s another inevitability beginning to play itself out.