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Thoughts on Cincinnati Reds prospect Jose Peraza

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Does it seem to you that we don't hear much about Cincinnati Reds rookie Jose Peraza, at least compared to a year ago when he was still in the Braves system? He was optioned to Triple-A this morning after hitting .281/.299/.406 with six stolen bases this spring but he doesn't have much left to prove in the minors and will be back at some point later in the year. I've had a couple of questions for a take so here goes.

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Jose Peraza, 2B-SS, Cincinnati Reds
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 5-11 WT: 167 DOB: April 30, 1994

2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B-; 2015: Grade B+

What an interesting case this turned out to be. Peraza was hot stuff entering 2015, but while he played pretty well in Triple-A, in line with his previous performances properly understood, his stock seemed to be sagging somewhat at mid-season. He was traded to the Dodgers in the big Hector Olivera trade, was given a brief seven-game audition in the majors, then was shipped off to Cincinnati in the Todd Frazier transaction. Peraza’s strengths (line drive contact bat, speed, flashy defense) haven’t changed, nor have his weaknesses (lack of power, defensive metrics that aren’t as good as his reputation). He played some in the outfield last year and some kind of super-utility role may be his destination. Although he is just 21 years old (22 in April), some (many?) observers now believe that he will not improve much beyond what he already is. And how good is that? To me, he seems like a guy who would be around .275 in any given year, get to .300 in some seasons when the BABIP falls his way and down to .260 when it doesn’t. He’ll steal efficiently when he does get on base, and he can play several positions without hurting you. How about Rafael Furcal? Dee Gordon? A combination of the two? Something like that, without a double-digit home run surge in his mid-20s. Peraza won’t be a superstar but he could be in the majors for 15 years, make a lot of money, and help his teams win. Grade B+.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY:

Nothing that happened this spring changes that; it fits with it quite well actually. A good batting average with speed, but little power and a low walk rate leading to a weak OBP.

Projection systems are not hot on Peraza at this point: ZiPS has him at .265/.288/.369, Steamer at .274/.303/.365. Baseball Prospectus at .269/.288/.380. All have him with 30-35 stolen bases if he gets 500 at-bats. The slash line projections are pretty ugly and would not justify the B+ grade except in the minds of steal-hungry fantasy owners. He would seem more like a weak B or a B-.

So why the B+? That seems aggressive, does it not? The thing is, I don't disagree with the projections really; as noted in the comment, I see him as a .275ish hitter who can swipe a base. That's what he is right now. But maybe not in the future.

Normally I am suspicious about guys like this but my thinking is that, given Peraza's age, it would not take a huge improvement in his physical strength for him to take a step forward as a hitter. His walk rate is very low but his strikeout rate is also low and that gives him a good contact base to work with.

There is understandable skepticism about Peraza adding a great deal of strength given his slight build. But he doesn't really have to add "a great deal of strength" or turn into a home run hitter. Just marginal improvements with his batting eye and ability to drive the ball could move him into greater respectability as a hitter, towards Dee Gordonness. Add that to his speed and defense and you have a guy who plays for a decade.

Or, put another way: Dee Gordon hit .301/.360/.388 in his minor league career with 227 steals in 2051 at-bats. Peraza has hit .302/.342/.387 with 210 steals in 1839 at-bats. The only difference is a more patient approach from Gordon, but Peraza is actually way ahead of where Gordon was at the same stage: Gordon was in A-ball when he was 21 years old, not in Triple-A/the majors like Peraza.

So that's my take on Jose Peraza. It is optimistic, but there's logic behind it. It may not be correct logic, of course.