About a month ago, Matt Wilkes did a wonderful deep dive on Jose Peraza’s power and whether or not it could be sustained. I won’t rehash Matt’s insights, but I will offer a comparison as a footnote to his comprehensive breakdown.

Those of you paying attention likely have deduced that our own Jose Peraza is Player A. Player B is Peraza’s closest intra-positional peer, and still clearly better than Jose this past season.

Except, not actually by all that much. Yes, Player B’s AVG and OBP are about 15 points better than Jose’s, but BABIP accounts for most of the difference. Player B walks a touch more than Jose and holds the edge in the field, but Jose equals him in slugging. Oh, and of note, Player B is four years older than Jose.

Here’s another comparison, this time age-controlled, for your viewing pleasure:

Through the same point in his major league career that Jose just reached, Player B posted nearly identical stats. Jose was the better hitter by a touch; Player B the better fielder by the same margin. BABIPs the same. K- and BB-rates in similar proportion. Have you figured out who Player B is yet?

Image result for jean segura picture

That’s right! Player B is Jean Segura, new Phillies’ shortstop and ninth-best shortstop in the MLB in 2018 by fWAR!

Okay, okay, I know: This isn’t as exciting a reveal as Manny Machado or Trea Turner would have been. Jose Peraza himself was the 13th-best shortstop by fWAR in 2018, so comping him to Jean Segura isn’t that much of a jump. But consider this, 2018 was a breakout year for Peraza, one in which he finally developed his power stroke. Segura did not developed his power stroke until his age-26 season, two years after Peraza. That season, Segura hit 20 home runs and posted a 5.1 fWAR.

More than anything, this comparison is meant to remind you that Jose Peraza is about to be 25 years old. 25! Barring a Nick Senzel call-up, Peraza is the youngest everyday starter for the Reds, six months younger than Jesse Winker and a year and a half younger than his presumed backup Alex Blandino.

Over the past decade, Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs has done deep and continued research on aging curves. Generally, he’s found that hitters begin to enter their peak around age 24, sit at peak from 25 to 27, and begin to fade out of peak around 28. Peraza has just begun to enter his peak years, showing the same early returns that Segura did around the same age and beginning to demonstrate a power stroke equivalent to Segura’s.

Going a bit deeper: When Segura had his big coming-of-age season in Arizona, his soft contact% dropped from 25.6 to 16.2, with nearly all of the difference going to his hard contact%. Something shifted for Segura, be it an approach or finally having enough seasoning at the major league level. Part of it had to be a change in approach: His pull% jumped 6 points and his opposite field% dropped by 5.

And most importantly, Segura just started swinging less. He went from swinging at 53.2% of the pitches he saw in 2015, to 46.5% in 2016. Segura waited for his pitch and made sure to hit when he got it. By no means was it a Joey Votto like patience, but it was an improvement. Regardless of what prompted Segura’s shift at the plate, it unequivocally allowed him to measure up the ball and hit it with authority.

Peraza last season saw some strains of similar transformation. His soft contact% dropped by 8 points and his hard contact% picked up the difference. He pulled pitches a touch more, but not nearly like what Segura did. There’s room, in other words, for Jose to think up the middle and turn some of his oppo field contact into line drives hit hard back to center or to his pull side.

Also, Peraza has consistently swung at 50% of pitches he’s seen throughout his career. If he could wait a little more, be a touch more selective, that extra power reserve that Segura tapped could be unlocked. If that happens, Peraza will go from a dependable, league-average player to a top-10 shortstop. Think about that:The presumed weakest Reds starter still in the top-10 of his position.

At heart, both Segura and Peraza are contact hitters. Both strikeout little and walk less. But Segura made an adjustment, right as he entered his peak, to be more selective and swing at pitches he could drive. Peraza has started to make that shift but could still stand to do more.

At this point, I’m just repeating Matt’s post:

[Peraza] already made the adjustment to get more power out of his swing. He’s also among the hardest hitters to strike out in baseball. Hitting the ball harder more consistently will only improve his game given his high contact rate. The next step is learning to lay off pitches outside the strike zone and take more walks. Being more selective will also allow him to wait on pitches he can drive, which may help him further tap into his power.

The lesson here: Everything Matt wrote about the theoretical continuation of Peraza’s power is not only feasible, but it’s been done before. And a good deal of it has to do with a player’s maturation and coming into his own.

Peraza has just hit the point of his career where we can expect the pinnacle of his abilities to shine. We saw some of it last year. Another mechanical tweak or two, and Jose Peraza goes from lineup afterthought, to feared hitter. We all know you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but don’t forget Peraza’s still a puppy.

12 Responses

  1. andybado

    I like the view of Peraza with rose-colored glasses, too. And I’ll keep those on until the season begins, hoping for his incremental improvement.

    I think the comparison to Segura is interesting. A couple of points on the comp: 1) Segura showed more power than Peraza through his time in the minors. 2) Peraza’s 2018 also easily compares to Segura’s 2013 with the Brewers when he hit .294/.329/.423. Segura then struggled mightily for 2 years at the plate to the tune of a ~65 wRC+. I’m not saying that will happen with Peraza, but player development is hardly ever linear. We shouldn’t expect that he improves just because of his age or that he improved last year. I’m hopeful but I’m not expecting it!

  2. Shamrock

    While I was also firmly on the “trade Peraza” train back in 2017 (especially when he was blocking Scooter’s breakout at 2B), in hindsight I am glad that the Reds let Cozart go and handed SS over to Peraza last season.
    In 2019 i am all for letting Peraza build on what was a surprising 2018 breakout season.
    It’s also nice to know that we have Jose Iglesias in town this year. (in case Peraza were to regress)
    Either way, it’s nice to know that we have both 2B and SS covered this season.

  3. PhP

    Would you not expect a 25 year old to improve though? He was about a league average hitter last year and above average for a SS. There’s no reason to expect him to regress and as these posts have laid out – there is reason to expect him to improve.

  4. JB WV

    This is what the Reds FO envisioned when they traded Frazier. Peraza has been working during the off-season to improve his d and we’ll see what the results are. I think he’ll be much improved.

  5. Richard Fitch

    We now know there was a good reason the Reds went down several alleyways in pursuit of Peraza even after his star had dimmed–first with the Braves and later with the Dodgers.

    I know Jason Linden is very high on Jose, as am I.

  6. Indy Red Man

    Peraza dropped his soft contact % by 8 percent? From what? 95 to 87%:)
    I’ve been riding this guy hard like a jockey from Santa Anita since he came up to Cincy, but that’s because he has talent! He’s a guy that could hit .290 with 15 hrs and 40 steals if they can coach him? I’d say the big thing right now with him is where does he hit? Winker & Senzel are better hitters then he is? Their lineup is deep enough to have some pop in the 6 hole. I’d bat Tucker 7th and Jose 9th for now. He’s not patient enough to realize he’s being pitched around in the 8 hole….that wouldn’t work for several reasons.

  7. David

    His errors committed compared to his plate appearances (actual games played) are not much different than Davey Concepcion and Barry Larkin in their first “full year” as shortstops. And Davey and Barry had played SS consistently growing up and in the minors (Barry at Michigan).
    Peraza’s biggest problems are his footwork (set up) and throwing, because he does not have a really strong SS type arm.
    Water under the bridge and all, but Price should have played Peraza more at SS in 2016 and 2017, to spell Cozart. No, he wanted to play Cozart in 2016 until his recovering knee fell off, because “winning”. What, the Reds were in contention that year?

    Peraza may never be a gazelle at SS, but in the 70’s, the Dodgers converted Bill Russell to SS from being an outfielder, and after a couple of years, Russell became a pretty good SS. Peraza will improve.

  8. David

    Davey Concepcion: 1970, 93 games, 22 errors (296 plate appearances)

    Barry Larkin: 1988, 148 games played, 29 errors (652 plate appearances)

    Jose Peraza: 2018, 156 games, 22 errors (683 plate appearances)

    Zach Cozart was actually a better fielder at the start than any of the above guys. Peraza will get better as his footwork and positioning improves. SS is the hardest or second hardest regular position to play in the MLB (that or catching)

    • Tom Mitsoff

      Good perspective. Let me add some based on the old eye test. Last year Peraza was terrible at going to his left, and at times showed very poor fielding fundamentals. Not only did he make errors, he often didn’t even get to balls that you would expect a major league shortstop to at least field. I hope his defense in 2019 improves as much as his hitting did in 2018.

  9. andybado

    Steve, if Wesley is wearing rose-colored glasses, you are wearing gray-colored (or Eeyore-themed?) glasses.

    Peraza is not a perfect player, but when assessing him, it’s critical to recognize that he has an elite offensive skill: he doesn’t strike out. Combine that with above average speed, and he can afford to have a bad batted ball profile and still be a decent hitter.

    Calling Peraza below average is pessimistic, not realistic. Of the 30 shortstops with more than 400 PA last year, he was 4th in K% (and 7th out of all 214 such hitters), 12th in OBP, 15th in wRC+, 6th in BsR (baserunning runs), 3rd in hits, and 7th in batting average. He doesn’t walk much and doesn’t hit the ball hard. (But we are not talking about Billy Hamilton, who combined those traits with the strikeout rate of Bryce Harper. Peraza can avoid a strikeout with the best of them — an under-rated skill). His offensive profile is atypical, but it certainly isn’t without value.

    He compiled 2.3 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR, and 3.1 BWARP. 2.0 is the baseline for an average starter for all of those wins above replacement stats. He was an average to above-average player last year as a 24 year old. I’d love to see those WAR stats from Senzel this year and I’ll take them from Peraza. Even if I’m not expecting much improvement in 2019, he is a solid young player playing a premium defensive position. The Reds need players like him if they are going to be competitive for any extended period of time.

    • andybado

      Steve, lots of guys swing wildly, have a low walk rate, AND strike out much more than Peraza. He is able to swing freely and still avoid strikeouts better than 95% of hitters. That is a skill (whether you value it or not). His approach isn’t ideal, but not everyone is Joey Votto or Eugenio Suarez. It is effective enough for him to be a decent hitter as a shortstop.

      Calling a 97-98 wRC+ below average is technically correct. But give me a break — anything between 95 and 105 is roughly average. Peraza was an average hitter last year fueled by an elite ability to make contact, above average speed, and higher than expected power. The first 2 qualities aren’t changing in 2019, and hopefully the power is here to stay too.