In the wake of last week’s trade with Atlanta, an article at FanGraphs by Jeff Sullivan asserted that Jose Peraza was a lot like Brandon Phillips. Certainly, some reasonable points were made in the piece, especially regarding batted ball profile, and I encourage you to go read that piece first. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Okay, are you back? As I was saying, Sullivan made some reasonable points in that article. In general, however, I respectfully disagree. The primary problem is that the FanGraphs piece mostly ignores who Phillips was as a player when he was Peraza’s age. Let’s look at different aspects of their games when Phillips was younger and see what the comparisons are like:
Phillips, at his best, was all-world defensively. I don’t need to tell you this. Peraza, while not a bad defender, is unlikely ever to win a gold glove. His issues mostly have to do with his lateral range being somewhat less than ideal. His arm is solid enough for short or second. The point, however, is that he’ll never be BP defensively.
Phillips, for most of his career, had solid power. It’s evaporated over the last few years, but that doesn’t make the early part of his career a mirage. Peraza has about as much power as Phillips currently has. This is not necessarily a problem, but power simply isn’t Peraza’s strength. In terms of power, Dilson Herrera is a much better match for Phillips.
Now, here’s a place where Peraza outshines Phillips. He is much, much faster than BP ever was. In fact, were it not for Hamilton, Peraza might be the fastest player in the organization. Given a full year of playing time, I would be absolutely shocked if he didn’t steal at least 40 bases with 50-60 more likely. Peraza brings a lot of value with his speed.
Peraza profiles right now has a high-contact, low-walk hitter. At the beginning of last season in Louisville, I noticed he wasn’t the free swinger we’d been led to expect and when I asked him about it, he said it was something he was working on. In Cincinnati, he seemed to return to his free-swinging ways, so the jury is still out. That said, he’s unlikely ever to walk a ton.
Peraza does, however, have excellent contact skills. He strikes out less than BP (who never struck out a ton) and his speed means he generally maintains a high BABIP. As with most contact-dependent hitters, we can reasonably assume that he’ll have big swings in results from year to year as the luck dragon treats him differently.
If Peraza has a place to grow, it’s with his power. He’s still young enough to add a bit of bulk and that would help. Right now, as a hitter, I’d say he profiles as a sort of hybrid of Phillips and Billy Hamilton. More power than Billy, but with swing tendencies that are more in line with the career Phillips has had. In the end, as long as his BABIP stays up, he should be able to maintain a league-average (ish) batting line with solid defense, which is good enough to make him a valuable player, albeit one who doesn’t bear much resemblance to who he’s replacing.
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.