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Prospect Notes, March 15, 2012

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CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals hits against the Chicago White Sox September 25, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals hits against the Chicago White Sox September 25, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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Prospect Notes, March 15, 2012

Caesar, Beware the Ides of March

**Kansas City Royals sophomore catcher Salvador Perez has a torn meniscus in his left knee. There is no official timetable for his return, but he'll be out at least a month. Perez was in the news last month when the Royals signed him to a five-year contract extension worth a potential $19.75 million. Obviously losing him to a knee injury was not on the agenda. It's impossible to know if the injury will have a long-term effect on his performance, but at least it wasn't an ACL, which would be a more difficult recovery.

Absent injury considerations, was the contract itself wise for the Royals?

Perez hit .331/.361/.473 in 148 at-bats for the major league club last year, and the Royals were happy with his defense. However, Perez was somewhat over his head offensively, at least if his minor league track record is any indication. He'd hit .290/.331/.437 in 91 games between Double-A and Triple-A, which is certainly solid, but not as good as .331/.361/.473. He hit .484 against left-handed pitching in the majors, obviously unrepeatable, and he's impatient even when he's hitting well. Scouts were also concerned about his lack of speed and "bad body" even before the injury.

Catchers aren't expected to have speed, of course. I think a healthy Perez is a very good player, a guy who can hit .270-.280 with moderate power while providing solid-to-excellent defense. Just don't expect him to hit .300+ all the time.

**San Diego Padres prospect Casey Kelly threw three shutout innings against the Cincinnati Reds yesterday, giving up five hits, but fanning four without walking anyone. He has now thrown five shutout innings this spring without giving up a walk, fanning six.

Kelly is a somewhat controversial prospect. Scouts seem to love him, focusing on his premium athleticism, clean mechanics, and strong feel for pitching, but more sabermetrically-oriented analysts worry about his low K/IP and H/IP ratios (105 K in 142 IP last year in Double-A, with 153 hits).

Usually scouts are a bit suspicious about pitchers who lack plus velocity, but in this case they focus on the fact that his fastball moves and sinks, plus it plays up due to the contrast with his curve and changeup. I still see Kelly more as a mid-rotation guy than a future ace, but if we see an uptick in his strikeout rates, that could change.

**Meanwhile, top Detroit Tigers pitching prospect Jacob Turner has been shut down with "shoulder tendinitis" and a "dead arm." It's too early to know what this means, but 1) shoulder problems are almost always more worrisome than elbow problems, 2) this clearly lowers the chance that Turner will be in the rotation in April. I would also point out that Turner's velocity was noticeably down last August. That could just be a coincidence, but, well. . .as the saying goes, young pitchers will break your heart.

**An interesting non-roster invitee in Atlanta Braves spring camp is catcher Evan Gattis. He's seen action in five games so far, going 4-for-7 with a double and one strikeout.

Gattis is an unconventional prospect. He was drafted in the 23rd round in 2010 out of the University of Texas-Permian Basin, but was almost 24 years old when signed. He took three years off in college due to a bout of excessive marijuana usage, plus a knee injury, combined with a general "I don't know what to do with my life" crisis.

Gattis recommitted to the game in 2010 and the results have been excellent so far, including a .322/.386/.601 with 22 homers performance in the Sally League last year. He's polishing his defense and at age 25 he needs to make up for lost time, but the fact that he's in major league camp at all is remarkable, considering the way his life was going a few years ago.