The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want to read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: catcher Salvador Perez.
We all love Salvador Perez but do we truly understand what the Kansas City Royals have in their talented 23-year old backstop?
At a very young age, Perez has been fantastic both behind the plate, and standing next to it. A couple of weeks ago, KC Kingdom’s Adam Cheshier talked about how Perez might be the best bargain in baseball. In this article, Adam gave us a statistical peek at how Perez stacked up with Ivan Rodriguez and Yadier Molina, two catchers who got comparable playing time at comparable ages, though Pudge was even younger.
Pudge Rodriquez’ slash, through his firs three seasons, ages 19-21, was .266/.301/.379/.680 in 348 games and 1,261 plate appearances. He had 21 home runs and 130 RBI.
Molina’s slash line in his first three seasons, ages 21-23, was .238/.291/.342/.632. He had 16 home runs and 113 RBI in 294 games, and 1,033 plate appearances.
Savador Perez’s slash in his first three seasons, ages 21-23, is .301/.331/.451/.782 in 253 games and 989 plate appearances. Salvy has 27 home runs and 139 RBI.
I started thinking about how Salvy would stack up against two other, modern-day catchers at a similar age. In the same first 3 years of his career, at the same age as Perez, Joe Mauer threw up this slash – .321/.399/.471/.870 in 306 games, and 1,284 plate appearances. Mauer clearly walks more, as Perez seldom sees a pitch he can’t swing at, but Perez compares favorably to the Twins’ catcher in most everything else.
Perez doesn’t have near the doubles (70-49) and none of the steals (22-0) Mauer had, but the rest numbers are not that far off, in fewer opportunities.
How about Buster Posey? In Posey’s first three full seasons, plus 17 PA in 2009, ages 23-25, his slash was .314/.380/.503/.883 in 308 games and 1,255 plate appearances. He walks far more than Perez, and has more power, but was two years older.
(Note – Piazza could have been included but he was even older than Posey, therefore a little outside of the scope – still crazy good stats at a young age, especially his power.)
When compared to some of the best offensive catchers on the 21st century, plus a decade of Ivan Rodriguez, Perez isn’t very far off. He is not nearly selective enough at the plate as one would hope, but does make contact a lot. According to Fangraphs.com, Perez makes contact on 88% of his swings – a very high number.
The problem is that when he swings at pitches out of the strike zone, which he does 37.7% of the time, according to Fangraphs, it is harder to make solid contact.
Perez could be more selective at the plate, maybe make more solid contact more consistently, and raise his base on balls and his power output just a little. He has time to improve in these areas as he is only 23, but these are hard habits to break.
That leaves defense. Defensive metrics are so very new, and are always being polished, but they are imperfect. Still, they give us a nice line of comparison.
One such metric for catchers is Defensive Runs Saved (Fangraphs), or DFS, which only goes back to 2003. We obviously do not have any comparisons for Rodriguez early, but from 2003 through 2011, in his twilight years, Pudge accumulated a DFS of 13.
Joe Mauer had a DFS of -6 in his first three seasons, and Buster Posey, 11. The catcher who stands out the most defensively is Yadier Molina. His DFS was 27 in his first three seasons, and in one year, 2010, he saved 20 runs according to the metric.
Salvador Perez, in his first three seasons, has amassed a DFS of 21, better than the other comparables except for Molina.
For what it is worth, pitchers seem to love throwing to Perez, and he has a terrific arm. He is a vocal team leader on the field, even at a young age. He has had some injuries, and because of his size (6’3″, 245 pounds), this is a bit worrisome.
So, what does all of this minutia mean? It means Salvador Perez compares favorably to some of the best, modern offensive catchers at a comparable age, and is on the brink of being an elite offensive catcher. He is also a better defensive catcher than some of the other offensive catchers.
And Salvador Perez is a Kansas City Royals for the next 6 seasons for about $20 million total.