Keeping with our recent theme of surprise success stories, today we turn our attention to Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta. In his first 39 major league games, Peralta is hitting a robust .322/.349/.459 with nine doubles and three homers in 146 at-bats, for a wRC+ of 123.
A year ago, Peralta was playing for Amarillo in the independent American Association. Raise your hand if you predicted that he would be in the major leagues this year and hitting .322 in his first month of action. I don't see many hands.
Ok, so where did this one come from?
Peralta is from Venezuela. He was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher back in 2004, but he had injury problems (a torn labrum) and was unable to get his ERA below 5.00 in rookie ball. Released in 2009, he re-emerged as an outfielder in 2011, playing for Rio Grande Valley in the independent North American League and hitting .392/.429/.611 in 85 games. The NAL folded but Peralta hooked up with Wichita in the American Association for 2012, hitting .332/.392/.462 in 98 games.
Peralta was signed by Amarillo in the American Association for 2013 and got off to a strong start, hitting .352/.381/.604 in 42 games. The whole point of independent baseball is for players to get a second chance and Peralta got one: the Diamondbacks signed him as a free agent last summer. Sent to Visalia in the California League, he hit .346/.370/.534 in 51 games.
However, he was quite old for the Cal League at age 25, so he didn't rank highly on prospect lists entering this season. Nevertheless, he kept ripping the ball after moving up to Double-A Mobile to open 2014 (.297/.359/.480) and now here he is in the majors.
Peralta is a 6-2, 215 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, born August 14, 1987. Scouting reports indicate good bat speed and above-average power from the left side, which the numbers certainly confirm. He's also hit for average thus far, but he's quite aggressive and we'll have to see if major league pitchers learn to use that against him. His strikeout rate is reasonably low, which helps. What little I've seen of him, his home run power is mainly to the pull side but he does go the opposite way at times and can shoot doubles into the gaps. He has some problems with left-handed pitching but seems to read right-handers very well. Defense is not his specialty and he's not going to steal a bunch of bases, but if he keeps hitting, he'll keep playing.
Will he keep hitting?
I don't think he's going to hit .322 all year once the scouting reports get around, but he's hit at every level to which he's been exposed: the burden is on the pitchers at this point. Can he hit .260-.280 with enough power to be a useful platoon bat? That seems plausible to me. And that's a lot more fun than being a retired pitcher with a bad labrum.
Kudos to Peralta for not giving up, and kudos to Arizona for giving him a chance.