Prospect of the Day: Salvador Perez, C, Kansas City Royals
The youth movement continues in Kansas City, with catcher Salvador Perez taking over behind the plate for the Royals. Perez hasn't received as much attention as prospects like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, or even Johnny Giavotella, but he is now the regular catcher and will be given a clear shot to hold the job.
Perez was signed by the Royals out of Venezuela in 2006. He played 30 games for the Arizona League Royals in 2007, hitting .244/.320/.279 but impressing with his defensive potential. He followed that up with a 25-game offensive outburst for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League and Burlington in the Appalachian League in 2008, hitting a combined .361/.409/.482. 2009 was less impressive: he hit just .189/.230/.236 in 36 games for Burlington in the Midwest League, resulting in a trip back to Idaho Falls, where he righted the ship and hit .309/.357/.421 in 59 games. He spent all of 2010 with Wilmington in the Carolina League, hitting .290/.322/.411.
Perez began 2011 with Double-A Northwest Arkansas, hitting .283/.329/.427 and earning a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he hit .333/.347/.500 in 12 contests. Overall in his career, he's a .285/.328/.397 hitter with 71 walks and 134 strikeouts in 1344 plate appearances.
A 6-3, 230-pound right-handed hitter, Perez is now 21 years old. He has a consistent swing with few mechanical flaws, makes contact, and flashes above average power. However, he seldom draws walks, inhibiting his on-base percentage, and he is one of the slowest runners in professional baseball. He has been young for his leagues, and while his numbers haven't been exceptional since leaving rookie ball, he should be at least adequate with the bat eventually and should provide occasional power.
Perez has excellent defensive skills. He owns an above average arm with a quick release that controls the running game. He's thrown out 46% of runners trying to steal on him this year, and 42% in his career. He blocks errant pitches well. Perez will make a few errors of inexperience, but unlike many young catchers, he doesn't give up many passed balls. Coaches also give him high marks for field leadership and pitcher management and he is very mature for a player his age.
The questions have always revolved around his bat. Although Perez isn't going to do much in the OBP department, his combination of occasional power with strong defense should keep him employed for a long time.