After the 2017 season, Jose Peraza left many with doubts that he could be a part of the Reds future. He was coming off one of the worst seasons of his professional career, but with Zack Cozart leaving in free agency, everyone knew he would get one more chance in 2018 to prove himself. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done a pretty good job of that, albeit under the radar.
Once a Top 100 prospect, Peraza took a step backward in 2017, hitting .259/.297/.324 with an OPS of .622. But this season, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s improved immensely. In 569 plate appearances, Peraza is hitting .288/.329/.404 with 26 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 44 RBI, and 71 runs scored. Both his home run and walks totals are already career highs. Peraza also has a 95 wRC+ this season, which is not a career high at the major league level, but for the number of games heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s played, it is. (He played in only 72 games in 2016 and had a wRC+ of 103).
Back in July, Redleg Nation’s Jason Linden wrote an article in Cincinnati Magazine about Peraza’s improved play. Since that published piece, Peraza has been even better. In the last 14 days, he’s hitting .333/.360/.542 with three home runs, five RBI, eight runs scored, and an OPS of .902. Over the last 28 days, his OPS is .865. Peraza has seemed to make the most of the opportunity given him.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the crazy thing about Peraza that most people forget. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just 24 years old. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s younger than both Trevor Story of the Rockies and Trea Turner of the Nationals. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the same age as the CubsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Addison Russell and the BravesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Dansby Swanson. Fans want to criticize Peraza because he had a terrible 2017, but they fail to realize that it happens to young players all the time. In 2018, SwansonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s OPS is barely above .700, and RussellÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s is lower than that. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the nature of baseball.
Last season was the first season Peraza truly struggled while playing everyday. He never hit below .280 in the Braves’ and Dodgers’ systems before being traded to the Reds. His worst season was his first professional season in 2011 when he had a .686 OPS, followed closely by 2015 with an OPS of .694. Both of these seasons had extenuating circumstances that might have have factored into the way he played. He had to adjust to being a pro in a brand new country in 2011 and to being traded to a different organization in 2015.
If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an area where Peraza falters, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s taking pitches and drawing walks. While he has gotten better this season–28 compared to only 20 in 2017, his BB% sits at 4.9%. PerazaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stats historically show he has never been that kind of player. Taking out his brief stint with the Dodgers in which he played only seven games, his BB% this season is one of the highest of his professional career and his highest since he was with Triple-A Louisville in 2016. Going back even further, this season is also higher than every other year since he was in A-ball with the Braves in 2013.
What does this mean? It means that if Peraza wants to be successful, he needs to be making contact when he swings because he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to get on base via a walk. He has been doing this more in 2018, which is contributing to the success heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s having. His Contact% is up 2.2% and his Z-Contact% (contact on pitches inside the zone divided by swings on pitches inside the zone) is up 3.0%, while his Swing% is down 1.6%. In fact, his Swing% is down this season from each of the past two seasons. Peraza is making more contact and swinging at less pitches and it results in an improved hitter.
Is Peraza one of the better players on the team right now? No, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not. But given his young age and the improvements heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shown from last season to this season, the numbers heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s putting up now gives the Reds confidence he can perform at the level they anticipated when they traded for him. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one area where the Reds had questions going into the season, and now the question for the Reds shifts to “Where will the top infield prospect play when he comes up?” Too many players is always a good problem to have though. For now, it seems the Reds may have found their shortstop.