Offseason Spotlight: Roberto Perez
|Roberto Perez (Photo: IPI)|
Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez has the goods to play in the Major Leagues right now as a defender. But as it is with any player, it is his bat which will determine if he ever makes it to the big leagues.
Perez, who turns 23-years old next week, hit just .225 with 2 HR, 30 RBI and .675 OPS in 94 games for High-A Kinston this past year. He played in the Arizona Fall League earlier this offseason and in 16 games hit .226 with 4 HR, 11 RBI and .854 OPS. He is currently participating in winter ball out in Puerto Rico, but has played in just two games and is 2-for-7 at the plate with a walk.
“They are sending me here to work on my hitting,” Perez said about his offseason plan in a recent interview for the IPI. “They want me to stay on top of the competition. I have been hitting the ball well this offseason hitting it hard but right at people. I am just trying to do the same thing every day.”
Perez had some issues with injuries in the past year which hindered his development some at the plate. Last offseason he sprained his rotator cuff playing in Puerto Rico, and in the middle of this past season he suffered an oblique strain that affected him for some time.
Perez has been an inconsistent hitter over his minor league career. In three seasons he is a career .242 hitter and owns a .723 OPS. In his last two seasons at Low-A Lake County (.217) and High-A Kinston (.225) he has really struggled at the plate with his hitting, but thanks to 167 walks in his career he has a very good career .373 on-base percentage.
The walks are very good to see, but as Perez moves up the minor league ladder it will get tougher to draw them. He has a tendency to take too many pitches, a lot of them that are good pitches to hit, so getting him to be more aggressive at the plate is a goal the Indians have set for him this offseason and next season.
The Indians are very happy with his catching skills, but at this point it is all about jumpstarting his bat. He is just having a hard time finding something that works and is unsure of himself at the plate. If his passiveness at the plate can be replaced with a little more aggression and his work ethic improves, some improvement may result.
“Right now I am trying to figure things out by myself,” Perez said. “I need to find something comfortable and get back to what I was doing in Puerto Rico last year. I am just trying to be me and do my routine every day and stay on top of my hitting. My defense is there, but my hitting is up and down so I just want to get it consistent.”
Behind the plate there are a lot of things to like about Perez. If he did not have to hit he could play in the big leagues right now as a backup catcher. He has the ability to control a running game with his quick, powerful, accurate right arm, and he displays very good abilities with his leadership, calling games, receiving, blocking, and handling a pitching staff.
Even though most of the focus has been on improving his performance at the plate, Perez believes he improved as a defender this past year.
“I believe I got better calling games,” Perez said. “My receiving was good as I only had four passed balls, and two of those were to [Steven] Wright and his knuckleball. I worked on calling games by looking at hitters and discussing them with the pitchers, so it worked out for me and I am happy about it.”
2012 is shaping up to be a big year for Perez. He is expected to be a part of the Indians Winter Development Program in January, and then play at Double-A Akron next year where his defense and approach at the plate will really be tested.
Perez has to show improvement at the plate to avoid being cast off as a non-prospect and just another good defensive catcher in the upper levels of the minor leagues that can’t hit. There are lots of catchers like up and down Triple-A and Double-A rosters all around baseball. If the bat ever comes for him where he hits just a little, he is going to be a legit Major League catching option for the Indians; however, until he makes the necessary adjustments at the plate his future is limited.
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.