During the discussion earlier this week about the updated Top 75 Prospects list, readers suggested Atlanta Braves infield prospect Jose Peraza as a player who deserved stronger consideration. He certainly looked good in the Futures Game, demonstrating his speed by beating out a routine ground ball to third for a base hit, so I'll take this opportunity to weight on on Peraza.
Here is the report I wrote on him pre-season:
A Venezuelan shortstop signed in ’10 for $350,000, Peraza looks like he could be worth the money thanks to his speed and defensive ability. He has above average range, outstanding instincts, and is steadily improving his reliability; there are few doubts about his ability to handle shortstop in the majors. He runs quite well and is a very aggressive and skilled baserunner. With the bat, he makes contact and has hit for a high average thus far, but his lack of power is a hindrance and his plate discipline still needs work. He has a shot at being a regular shortstop if he hits enough. That’s still an open question, but my instincts say to be optimistic about his bat. Grade B-.
That report is still valid as far as it goes, but he's answered some of those questions about his bat (and justified the instinctive optimism) by hitting .349/.374/.461 this year including .374/.400/.484 in 20 games since being promoted to Double-A Mississippi. He's stolen 43 bases in 56 attempts.
His contact hitting skills look first class: he's fanned just eight times in 91 at-bats in Double-A and just 40 in 375 at-bats all year. And while he lacks home run power, he's not completely punchless, on course to exceed 30 doubles on the year and already boasting nine triples. On the other hand, his walk rate is very low (just 14 free passes), which makes his OBP extremely reliant on his batting average. That's one thing when you're hitting .349, but what happens if you can only manage .260 at higher levels?
On defense, he has played mostly second base this year but that's out of deference to Andrelton Simmons. Peraza needs to iron out some rough edges at second but there seems to be little doubt that his range and quickness (which are still good enough for shortstop) will play really well at the keystone once he gets more experience.
I had him as a Grade B- pre-season and based on what he's done so far, I would move that up to a Grade B. That would get him onto the Top 75, or at least very close to it: at worst he would be in the low 80s and I think you can make a case in the 60s. To go higher than that, I want to see if he can maintain that kind of batting average at higher levels, and if he can add at least a few walks to the mix.
He has a chance to develop into a major league regular, given his age (21), tools, and present set of skills. At worst he should be a valuable utility player. The bottom line: although he has some weak areas I think the readers are right and I should have given him stronger consideration for the list.