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Salvador Perez Gives Royals Rare Offense At Catcher

By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports

CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Kansas City Royals

2012 season: 76 G, 289 AB, .301 BA, 11 HR, 39 RBI, .798 OPS

Over the past few years, the Kansas City Royals have constantly been rebuilding. They’ve paraded so many hyped-up prospects through their system that some of their Major Leaguers, from Zack Greinke to Alex Gordon, have complained about always waiting for the next big thing (which is ironic, because at different times, both Greinke and Gordon were the next big things). In recent seasons, players like Eric Hosmer (sophomore slump), Mike Moustakas (has yet to truly break out) and Wil Myers (traded) have been praised as saviors.

Salvador Perez, on the other hand, never got that level of praise. He had been viewed as a strong prospect, but with so many others getting so much attention, he was never burdened with the pressure of expectations. Subsequently – or maybe consequently – Perez has produced when he’s gotten opportunities at the Major League level. In 115 career games, he owns a .311 batting average to go along with 14 longballs and an .810 OPS. Those are strong numbers for anyone, let alone a catcher.

Coming up through the minor leagues, Perez displayed strong defensive skills but was questionable on the offensive end. In 99 games at High-A in 2010, he batted .290 but managed only a .732 OPS. Then something strange happened in 2011 – as he got promoted to higher levels, he started to put up better numbers. He hit .283 with a .756 OPS at Double-A (79 games); .333 with an .847 OPS at Triple-A (12 games); and .331 with an .834 OPS in the Majors (39 games).

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With those numbers seemingly coming out of nowhere, there was some concern that his 2011 might have be a fluke. But Perez proved the doubters wrong by dominating again last season. Despite suffering a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee in Spring Training, he came back to hit .340 in 12 Triple-A games and then perform admirably in the Majors. There’s a new age of offensive catchers coming up through the ranks of the big leagues, and Perez is part of that movement.

That’s not to say the 22-year-old is completely polished, however. Yes, he hit .301 last year, but he only managed a .328 on-base percentage. There’s also a question of exactly how much power he has, considering that he’s never hit more than 13 homers in a season.

But even if Perez’s power doesn’t end up being in the 20-plus homer range, he’ll still provide value by hitting for average and playing strong defense – he would essentially be a less polished version of Joe Mauer. And if Perez does develop that power and plate discipline, he could eventually turn out to be even better than his division counterpart.

Next up on March 9: Minnesota Twins

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