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The Red Report 2019 - Jose Peraza

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The shortstop of the future fully arrived in 2018. Can he keep it up?

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Fast Facts

  • Shortstop
  • 24 years old
  • Native of Barinas, Venezuela; only the second position player born in Barinas to reach MLB. The other is Ramon Flores, who also made his debut in 2015 and played for three different teams from 2015 to 2017.
  • Essentially always makes the same facial expression, or some general various of the picture above.
  • In 2019, had the second most hits by a Reds shortstop in a single season (182, three behind Barry Larkin’s 1990 season record).
  • 2019 is Peraza’s first year of arbitration, as he qualified as a Super Two - meaning he’ll have three more seasons of team control beyond 2019.

Organizational History

  • Signed by the Atlanta Braves as an amateur free agent in 2010.
  • Traded by the Braves to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three team deal also involving the Miami Marlins.
  • That trade also featured former and future Reds players Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Alex Wood.
  • Made MLB debut on August 10, 2015.
  • Traded by the Dodgers, with Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon, to the Reds in a deal that also involved Todd Frazier and the Chicago White Sox.

Career Stats

Standard Batting
Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2015 21 LAD NL 7 25 22 3 4 1 1 0 1 3 0 2 2 .182 .250 .318 .568 58 7 0 0 1 0 1 /48
2016 22 CIN NL 72 256 241 25 78 8 2 3 25 21 10 7 33 .324 .352 .411 .762 102 99 3 5 0 3 0 684/7D
2017 23 CIN NL 143 518 487 50 126 9 4 5 37 23 8 20 70 .259 .297 .324 .622 63 158 7 7 3 1 1 46/8
2018 24 CIN NL 157 683 632 85 182 31 4 14 58 23 6 29 75 .288 .326 .416 .742 97 263 12 9 8 5 4 *6/9
4 Yrs 379 1482 1382 163 390 49 11 22 121 70 24 58 180 .282 .319 .381 .700 85 527 22 21 12 9 6
162 Game Avg. 162 633 591 70 167 21 5 9 52 30 10 25 77 .282 .319 .381 .700 85 225 9 9 5 4 3
CIN (3 yrs) 372 1457 1360 160 386 48 10 22 120 67 24 56 178 .284 .320 .382 .703 85 520 22 21 11 9 5
LAD (1 yr) 7 25 22 3 4 1 1 0 1 3 0 2 2 .182 .250 .318 .568 58 7 0 0 1 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/26/2019.

Scouting Report


Source: FanGraphs
Brooks Baseball
Statcast via Baseball Savant

Ken Gif-y Jr.

Rotoballer
Rotoballer

Projections

Fangraphs

Outlook

For the first time in his Reds career, Jose Peraza entered 2018 with a clear-cut, no doubt path to everyday at bats. After logging the majority of his innings in 2017 at second base and sharing time there with the breaking-out-at-the-time Scooter Gennett, Peraza watched Zack Cozart leave in free agency and thus a hole created at shortstop.

I opined in this very space last year that it felt like Peraza was the heir apparent at the position from the day he was acquired for Todd Frazier, even if it took a little longer than expected with the aforementioned Cozart’s late breakout years with the Reds. With Cozart out of the picture, that vision was finally realized in 2018.

Now, it wasn’t exactly like Peraza beat down any doors to get into the everyday lineup. 2017 was a pretty disappointing season for the then-23-year-old, and it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. Peraza still received 500+ plate appearances despite not being an everyday defender at any certain spot. He parlayed that into a very early Cozartian-esque batting line of .259/.297/.324, good for just a 63 OPS+. So, it’s not exactly like the Reds had to get this guy in the lineup. But you got the feeling that they certainly wanted to.

With that in mind, Jose Peraza probably exceeded a lot of expectations in 2018. He certainly didn’t get off to a bangin’ start; he wouldn’t get his first hit until the fourth game of the year, and, all told, started one for his first 16. Through the first two full months of the season (237 plate appearances), Peraza slashed a very pedestrian .256/.292/.324. It would’ve continued the trend of Cozartian play, circa 2014. But Zack Cozart was always a wizard at shortstop. Jose Peraza is what you may consider mostly adequate at shortstop. Coupled with that stat line... it wasn’t optimal, to say the least.

Luckily for Peraza, the Reds, and Reds fans everywhere, things turned around in a big way for the rest of the summer. Starting June 1st and continuing throughout the rest of the season (his final 446 PA), Peraza batted to a .305/.344/.465. For the balance of the season, Peraza ended with a batting line of .288/.326/.416, 97 OPS+, 97 wRC+, good for a 2.3 bWAR/2.7fWAR season while playing 1,329 innings of mostly fine to good shortstop. That will do.

The reason for the turnaround is probably impossible to matter-of-factly pin down, if only because we’re not in the room everyday with a player. But, a lot of the reason may just be better luck. During his struggles through March, April, and May, Peraza posted a BABIP of only .280, while that number jumped 40 points over the course of the summer, and, thus the performance rose.

That’s entirely too simplistic, of course. For the balance of the season, it brings you to a total BABIP of .307, which is just a touch above league average. With as much contact ability and speed a guy like Peraza has, I think you’d expect a BABIP a bit higher than average, assuming he’s putting good wood on the ball.

And maybe that was part of it, though the month-by-month numbers don’t necessarily bear that out. In the month of June, Peraza hit the ball considerably harder, or, at least, started hitting it softly with less frequency. His 11.5% Soft% was by far the lowest of any calendar month, but even then, it wasn’t necessarily his best and everything else pretty much tracks over the course of the season.

Year over year, however, Peraza did hit the ball harder with consistency. After hitting 26.6% of his balls softly in 2017, that number dropped all the way to 18.8% in 2018. You can see above that he’s not going to out slug Giancarlo Stanton anytime soon (3rd percentile in Exit Velociy, 4th in Hard Hit %, according to StatCast), just not swinging a wet noodle is the first step in giving yourself a chance.

So, lucky or not, Peraza has shown he can make it work on the balance of the season. But is Jose Peraza is who we think he is at this point? Was this the most breaking out he’s going to do? Maybe, maybe not.

Peraza’s always been a free swinging, contact oriented hitter, that hardly walks but doesn’t strike out much, either. In 2018, Peraza walked the fifth least by percentage of any batter in the National League (min. 250 PA), but he K’d the third least, too. What if Peraza was just a little more selective in his approach? Not so much that it changes who he is, fundamentally, but just a touch more?

His 35.2% O-Swing was 32nd most last season, out of a pool of 151 players with at least 250 plate appearances. That’s not the worst thing in the world (especially with as much contact as he makes), but just a few percentage points could go a long way in improving many aspects of his game. He’d take a few more walks, sure, but he’d also get better pitches to hit and put in play, or, maybe, even hit out of the park. Peraza’s 14 home runs in 2018 is six more than he’d hit in his prior 799 career PAs. He’s got sneaky power when he squares it up.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit skeptical that we’ll see a huge leap at the plate. I could totally see a BABIP fueled big season from Peraza, where he runs into a few more (at GABP, could Jose breach 20 HR?) pitches and runs his way into better results than maybe he otherwise should’ve. His batting profile has always been his profile; he’s an extremely contact oriented hitter. But, it’s weird to think about how young he still is. To wit:

So who the hell am I, Blog Guy, to say that Jose Peraza is who he is at this point? He shares a locker room with Joey Votto, for goodness sake. I’m going to tell you he can’t learn to take a walk?

With Billy Hamilton out of the picture, it surely seems like Jose will be one of the most maligned position players by fans this season, if he weren’t already. Just this time last year, we were wondering how long it’d be before Nick Senzel could take his job. As soon as Jonathan India was drafted, we were asking, “Can he play shortstop?”

Then, Jose Peraza, eventually, just went out and hit. Is there a higher ceiling to come?