At this time last year Salvador Perez was just outside the top ten at the catching position with the chance to breakout. Following a slow April, some injuries and battling through some familial issues, Perez surged over the last two months. Now it is time to try and figure out what this means for 2014. I presently have him as my number one catcher in the American League and fourth overall. His current ADP is 84.78 and Perez has been the sixth catcher selected in early NFBC drafts in spite of his strong finish last year.
Salvador Perez – Kansas City Royals
2013 Stats – 138 G, 48 R, 13 HR, 79 RBI 292/323/433
With the exception of the runs scored, this feels like a Joe Mauer line if you took the name off of the statistics. Add in the fact that Mauer is moving to first base ensuring he plays more games, how can I put Perez above of him? The answer lies in the potential that Perez displayed in the second half last year once he was finally healthy. I think that Perez has a better chance to reach a career season while Mauer has already had his in 2009, an outlier that is not coming back. Without getting ahead of myself, here is his second half:
Salvador Perez 2H – 61 G, 23 R, 9 HR, 41 RBI 303/335/483
There is a noticeable difference in his slugging percentage along with 70% of his home runs coming in the second half. To set a baseline for a breakout in 2014, here are these stats projected out over 130 and 145 games:
2H projected to 130 G – 49 R, 19 HR, 87 RBI
2H projected to 145 G – 55 R, 21 HR, 97 RBI
Is it reasonable to expect those types of numbers? Probably not, but it provides a glimpse of what he could do over the course of a full season. The seeds are in place for Perez to fulfill the promise that fantasy players were investing in last year. In the second half Perez raised his batting average even though his line drive percentage (LD%) dropped over two points from the first half. Like Mauer, Perez is not really a threat to a fantasy team’s batting average. Could he display a little more patience, absolutely, but the real focus on my premise is his power number potential moving forward. During the second half Perez had a huge jump from 5.1 HR/FB% in the first half to 13.6%. This surge moved his career HR/FB% rate to 10.2% and offers hope for at least a repeat of a double digit rate moving forward. Also, his ISO (SLG – AVG) showed a huge gain as well. His career ISO is .150 but in the second half Perez saw it rise to a .180 mark.
Over the course of a full season there is due to be regression but just how much? Here are some projections for Perez from Fangraphs.com and CBS:
Perez Steamer Projection – 130 G, 64 R, 15 HR, 72 RBI, 1 SB 291/328/447
Perez Oliver Projection – 143 G, 64 R, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 1 SB 278/311/400
Perez CBS Projection – 55 R, 14 HR, 75 RBI 304/334/459
While these projections paint an accurate picture of Perez, the Royals have made additions to the lineup that should not only boost his runs, but his RBI going forward. By moving Aoki to the top of the lineup and the addition of Omar Infante, there is much more flexibility in the Royals lineup. In fact, they could imitate the A’s with two different lineups depending on the starting pitcher. That will remain to be seen, but as it stands now, Perez should bat fifth or sixth in an improved lineup. If he can keep the gains in HR/FB% and his ISO numbers, then it stands to reason his breakout year is imminent. I used the Oliver projection to illustrate how they ignored his career ISO (.150) in the projection and is much too low in his other power numbers. But we can use this as the low point of his projection for 2014. Using his high and low projections, the risk lies with can Perez keep the gains from the second half? Here is my outlook for 2014:
My Salvador Perez 2014 Projection – 150 G, 67 R, 20 HR, 82 RBI 294/315/464
If he can sustain even a modest increase in HR/FB% and ISO, the twenty home runs could be in reach though eighteen is a safer projection. His average could even be higher based on his career LD% of 23 but I think any fantasy owner would be happy with the stat line. There is qualitative and quantitative evidence, but most of all, I am going with my gut on ranking him first in the AL and top 5 overall. It is not the safe route, but I am confident in Perez.
Greg Jewett is a staff writer for Roto Analysis and you can follow him on Twitter @gjewett9
Salvador Perez picture credit: http://blog.localruckus.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/sal.jpg