The winter 2015 three team trade of fan favorite and Home Run Derby star Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox brought back right fielder Scott Schebler, infielder Brandon Dixon, and the current Reds second baseman, Jose Peraza. After slow starts the past two seasons, Schebler’s power (he currently leads the team in home runs) has swung the outcome of the trade to the side of the Reds, but the jury is still out on the supposed centerpiece at the time of the deal, Peraza.
Following the spring trade of Brandon Phillips to Atlanta, Peraza was installed as one half of the team’s current, and perhaps future, middle infield. This move was made as not only a way for a rebuilding team to get younger, but also based on an end of 2016 season in which Peraza, flashing the speed which has been evident wherever he’s played, finished with a .324 batting average and an on-base percentage of .352.
So far, through 42 games in 2017, that confidence in Peraza seems to have been misplaced. He’s currently hitting to the tune of .253 with his usual lack of power (nine extra base hits – one home run but, to his credit, three triples), lack of walks (five compared to 22 strike outs), and an ugly OBP of .287 – which for a speed-contact guy makes all of the Moneyballers cringe. Dropped from the second spot in the line-up to his current seventh, his lack of pitches seen per at bat (on his career average of 3.46) and on-base percentage are less of a liability. However, going forward, the Reds have to be wondering, what is the ceiling of an “in his prime” Jose Peraza?
Peraza’s career stats through only 121 games show parts of his game which indeed do show some promise – a batting average of .289, speed to the tune of 32 career stolen bases, and a high-contact bat with only 57 strikeouts in 429 career at bats. Having just turned 23 on the 30th of April, perhaps these are the traits which led Peraza to be considered a league-wide, top 100 prospect across three different organizations (Atlanta, Los Angeles Dodgers, and then, Cincinnati).
The cynic might look at this current version of Peraza and see only his floor – a useful utility player capable of playing multiple positions anywhere around the diamond; a National League manager’s best friend type of bench bat, great for the hit and run game and more than capable of stealing a base to influence a late, close ballgame.
But you have to think that the Reds powers that be are choosing to focus on Peraza’s ceiling instead. With youth comes potential, and Peraza’s potential to grow into that top-of-the-order, speed-contact middle infielder with a (at least) respectable OBP is still there.
The more experience he gains through his first full season playing at the highest level will help to determine just how high that ceiling will be. Coming into this season, the thought was that the kids would play, and the process of seeing who would be a part of the next contending Reds team was in full swing. This process of discovery includes a full season of Peraza in the lineup daily — regularly at second base but really only biding time until a Zack Cozart trade would allow for his shift to shortstop full time.
Not without the struggles that come along with youth, Bryan Price made the right decision when he recognized early that Peraza wasn’t quite ready for the two spot in the line-up. Hitting seventh and typically ahead of only the catcher and pitcher, the pressure to adapt his approach can come at a more simplified and less high-profile timeline.
Back to the question we asked above, what is Jose Peraza’s ceiling? Is it to be a lead-off hitting middle infielder capable of hitting over .300 with an OBP of .390? Or, again in this season of discovery, are we impatient through forty-something games (and blind to youth) and quick to grasp his floor for what it is and move onto the next option?
I’m not much of a gambler, but based on where this team is right now, I let it ride. I give Peraza a full season (or more, who knows?) to really see what type of a player he is. Whether by discovery of a high ceiling, low ceiling, high floor, or low floor, the 2017 Reds are an open try-out for potential and future growth.
Come one! Come all! Cincinnati, the land of opportunity!
Need an example? Just look at the current state of the starting rotation…