At the start of the season, even the most optimistic of Cincinnati Reds fans saw the shortstop position as one of need moving forward. The Reds themselves saw it as a position of need, signaled by moving Nick Senzel to shortstop heading into spring training.
The incumbent, Jose Peraza, had flashed just enough potential to warrant another chance, but it was coming with caveats. It would likely be his last chance as an everyday starter if he continued at his current rate, and that was only made possible because the Reds were in the midst of a rebuild. Peraza did himself no favors, going hitless in his first 14 plate appearances of the season.
Fortunately, though, Peraza not only busted out of his cold streak but has become an important enough member of the rebuild that the Reds can look at their future differently.
Since the opening four games of the season where Peraza had one hit in 16 plate appearances, the 24-year-old has a wRC+ of 102, meaning he’s been a slightly above average shortstop, a huge change from what the Reds thought they had.
If you zoom in even closer, since May 22, Peraza has a 121 wRC+ in 228 plate appearances. The only National League shortstops ranked ahead of Peraza in that span are Trevor Story, Chris Taylor and Jean Segura (and technically Manny Machado now).
Peraza showed flashes like this in seasons before. In 2016, he finished with a 103 wRC+. However, that came in just 256 plate appearances on the season and also saw Peraza have an unsustainable .361 BABIP, meaning he was getting an awful lot of good bounces on balls in play.
This season, that BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is at a far more reasonable .312, which indicates Peraza’s not just getting lucky but is having an objectively good season.
The change is pretty evident when looking at his batted ball percentages. Peraza’s soft-contact percentage is down over eight percent and that has translated almost directly to hard-contact percentage, which is up over eight percent. Statcast backs up the FanGraphs data as his exit velocity is up and his launch angle has improved.
On top of his batting, the other big difference for Peraza has been his on-base percentage. He has always struggled at drawing walks in the majors, holding a career 4.2 walk percentage.
This season, he’s sporting a .333 on-base percentage and over the previously-mentioned sample size since late May, his on-base percentage of .383 is tops in the majors among shortstops in that span. To his credit, Peraza’s walk percentage is at a career-high 5.4 percent this year and over the aforementioned span, it stands at 7.9 percent.
All that prefaces Peraza’s defense, which has been up-and-down this season. Overall, though, Peraza grades out to an average to slightly above average defender which, given his position, is more than acceptable and something the Reds would be pleased with.
This season is the best Peraza has played at short and is also the most he’s played at the position by a large margin. Considering it’s arguably the hardest position to field, it’s an across the board solid season for Peraza.
It’s also important to point out that Peraza turned 24 at the start of the season and is in his third full-time season in the majors. That makes him 13 months older than Nick Senzel, for context. He’s younger than the large majority of players who make their way to the majors on a normal schedule. There’s no reason not to believe he won’t continue to improve.
Because of his play, the Reds can afford to keep him in the lineup so he can develop. No longer is the shortstop position seen as an area of need, which is incredibly valuable for a small market team. Having a prospect emerge in a position of need like Peraza has can drastically change the rebuild. Instead of needing to spend valuable and finite cash in free agency on a player, the team can take that cash and apply it elsewhere.
It’s more money the Reds can spend on a frontline starter, the team’s most glaring need. Or it’s more money they can spend on an outfielder. Or it’s more money the team can use in a buyout of Homer Bailey, if it comes to that. But when small market teams get unexpected returns from prospects, it has drastic effects on the franchise. Peraza’s season appears to be more than just a flash in the pan and it could have big effects on the team’s future.
As the clock hit 6:30 pm, last Saturday, I was ready to go to Great American Ballpark. That’s when my wife reminded me that it was December. Every year the Cincinnati Reds put on a first class party for their fans called Redsfest and they’re pretty good at what they do.
I got to meet Michael Lorenzen, Tyler Mahle, Ibandel Isabel, and Jimmy Herget. I got my copy of “The Big 50” signed by Chad Dotson and Chris Garber, made a video with Mo Egger, and talked shop with Doug Gray. Okay, I get it, enough with the name dropping. Basically, it was fun.
I made it a point to ask some light-hearted questions (or in Lorenzen’s case, make a light-hearted, but factual, statement) to see what their reactions would be.
I first met Lorenzen. I told him that he was the real silver slugger and I am attempting to get that other guy to mail him the trophy he deserves. Lorenzen responded with, “Well, that just gives me motivation to hit twice as many homers next year.” Might have to get me a Lorenzen jersey…
I then got Mahle’s John Hancock (or is it Herbie Hancock?) on a baseball and I asked him if we can expec upwards of three, or more, 20-strikeout games this year. He replied “Let’s hope so. I’ll see what I can do.” Hope you folks in the bleachers with K’s are ready to work, this season.
I then got autographs from Isabel and Herget. Isabel just gave me an awkward smile and a chuckle when I asked if he will focus on inside-the-parkers this year instead of traditional homers, since he’s already hit a lot of those. Herget gave me a classic answer to my simple question of what his favorite pitch was when he said, “A strike.” Well played Jimmy.
The main stage offerings were also enjoyable. The best was at the kids-only press conference. Joey Votto, Amir Garrett, and Eugenio Suarez were on stage for the show, and when asked what their favorite memory of 2018 will be, Joey decided it was “When Amir tried to fight the Cubs.” Suarez bumped in, “Yeah, when he struck out Baez and stared him down. That was awesome, man!” As much as we fans may have liked that moment, it seems to have been even cooler to the team.
Memorabilia-wise, there was a ton of stuff to get. I didn’t go too crazy, this year, but I did end up with a new hat that has a Jackie Robinson 42 patch on it. Definitely my favorite hat, now. All in all, a good weekend.
If you went, let me know how your experience went!
Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonReds on Twitter for more baseball content during the winter months!
Live (Sorta) from Redsfest with Mo Egger
Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonReds on Twitter
Instant Reaction: Bye, Bye Billy
Wow! It’s the first hour of Redsfest and there are fireworks, already! The world’s fastest man (probably), Billy Hamilton, was non-tendered by the Cincinnati Reds making him a free agent. I have a few instant thoughts on this.
Firstly, I am bummed. I watched his career develop in the minors all the way up til he got the call to the Bigs. He looked like a star in the making in Pensacola, but what we now know is that he was defensively gifted and offensively challenged. He will go down, in my book, as the foremost example of “You can’t steal first.” I hope that his next step (if he doesn’t return, that is, but more on that in a second) he finds that missing piece and becomes a star.
Nextly, where do the Reds go from here? The encouragement is that we know Bob Castellini loved Billy and wanted him to be here forever and ever. That means the front office has definitely, officially been handed the reigns. If that’s the case, maybe we see Nick Senzel brought up and given the CF job, or Jose Peraza move to CF (he has a few minutes of experience there) and Senzel put in at shortstop. Those possibilities excite me. Whatever gets Senzel in the lineup is the right course of action, to me.
Lastly, maybe this is a little Michael Johnson maneuvering? For those who don’t follow the other professional franchise in Cincinnati, the Bengals made a move, right before the season, where they cut one of their longtime veterans only to resign him a few days later. They made the move to get some young guys onto the practice squad, but I digress. What if the Reds and Billy have a little head nod and handshake agreement that they will sign him for a year or two at his current rate, avoiding the arbitration-hike in salary he was about to get? This is purely a hypothetical notion by me, by the way, and I don’t know if they can do that, or if Billy would want it that way. Just a thought from a fan who can never truly be unbiased when it comes to Cool Papa Bill.
Anyway, I am sure there will be more to come from Redsfest!
Follow @jefffcarr and @lockedonReds on the Twitter!