Fact or Fiction examines the performance of a player, good or bad, and determines whether he'll continue his success this season or if he has just been flukey-good. Today's Fact or Fiction looks at Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
Although he missed nearly the entire first half of play this season after recovering from left knee surgery, the 22-year-old catcher has returned to the Royals lineup and produced terrific offensive numbers since his return on June 22. In just 64 games since his return, Perez is hitting .310/.336/.510 with 11 home runs and a .356 weighted on-base average (wOBA). He also had a 17-game hitting streak in which he hit .361/.390/.514 with a .903 OPS.
Prior to the 2012 season, the Kansas City organization showed extreme faith in the young catcher, by signing him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $7 million after just 39 big-league games. The deal also includes three club options and could potentially earn the catcher $26.75 (including incentives) million when it's all said and done.
In 158 big-league plate appearances last season, Salvador hit .331/.361/.473 with 3 home runs and 21 RBI. Prior to his big-league call up in 2011, he hit .290/.331/.437 with a .769 OPS, and 10 home runs while splitting time between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.
Based on his performance to end the 2011 season coupled with his offensive output in 2012, Perez is not only helping the Royals offensively build for the future, but also saving the Royals money in the long term (assuming his production numbers stay the same).
Looking at Perez's numbers over his brief professional career, he's shown a very consistent theme of having the ability to put the ball in play and not strike out. In 102 career minor league games, Perez is posting just a 10.0% strikeout percentage, and in 94 big-league games, he's currently sitting at a 9.5% strikeout percentage. On the flip side, Perez has walked just 4.4% of the time in minor league at-bats and 4.0% in the big-leagues.
Although he doesn't hit a lot of home runs, his ability to consistently put the ball in play will help him hit for a high batting average. Because he doesn't strike out a lot and doesn't take walks, Perez's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) will always likely be higher than the league average of around .295-.300. For his big-league career, Perez has a .322 BABIP, and his batted ball breakdown is the following between the minor and major leagues: (souce FanGraphs.com
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While he can certainly swing the bat and make contact, his power numbers will be interesting to watch as he develops throughout his career. Currently, Perez ranks second among catchers spanning multiple seasons from 2011-to-2012 for their first two seasons at catcher in the OPS department with a .842 OPS.Overall, it's not difficult to envision Salvador Perez becoming a top 10 (if not higher) offensive catcher in the near future. There are only a handful of catchers that will post a batting average higher than .300, and if you mix in his potential to hit between 10-15 home runs in a season, Perez appears to be a gem for the Royals.