Updated: Dec 5, 2021
WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.
These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!
A warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut: That’s not really by bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.
A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.
I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.
#16: SS Delvin Pérez
23 Years Old on Opening Day
Drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 draft
It’s been a wild ride for Delvin Pérez. Not just because of all of the drama and struggle that led up to the 2021 minor league season, but also because of how his 2021 season went.
First, a quick recap. Delvin might have been a top five pick in the 2016 draft had he not tested positive for HGH. Then, he got off to a great start for the GCL Cardinals after he was drafted. Then, in 2017, Delvin had some on the field issues and he was benched because of it. Then, he was demoted. After that, 2018 and the first half of 2019 was basically a stalemate of development, from the outside observer’s perspective. However, in the first half of the 2019 season, you could see that his defense and his base running were crisper and more disciplined, and that he had changed his approach at the plate just enough that it was noticeable.
It was during the 2nd half of the 2019 season that we started to see Delvin take some really positive steps in his development. There was still no slug in his bat because of svelte and slight frame, but it seemed like Pérez now understood that bunting to get on base and slapping the ball would yield positive results. It wasn’t off-the-charts amazing, but Pérez hit 301/353/409 with 15 extra base hits in 193 plate appearances from July 6th until the end of the 2019 season. As we talked in his Dirty write-up at the time, he just needed to get bigger and stronger. It almost felt like that, alone, would catapult him towards measured success in 2020.
Then, COVID happened.
However, before camp was shut down in 2020, reports started to trickle in that Delvin had put on weight, and the good kind at that. A true positive there. I think that it was more than fair to be concerned about how Delvin might show up to camp during spring of 2021, but it was even more awesome to see Delvin put those concerns to rest immediately. He showed up bigger and stronger than ever. More importantly, he was more committed than ever. The breakout was upon us.
It took Pérez a minute to get going in Springfield, but he was a sight to behold once he did. Between May 15th and July 28th, Pérez hit 313/367/427 with four homers, six doubles, and four triples in 248 plate appearances. His wRC+ over this span was 115 while striking out an acceptable-for-his-entire-body-of-work 21.8%. Pérez was also 17 for 23 in stolen bases over this stretch, while playing some lockdown defense at short. His above-average-but-maybe-plus arm and range in the field was shining through, and he was calm, determined, and hunting at the plate.
However, it was at the end of this period that Delvin started to unravel a bit. As his peers began to get promoted, and he surrendered the #23 in honor of the Cardinals retirement of that number for Ted Simmons on July 28th, Delvin really began to struggle and show signs of wear. Clearly fatigued, Delvin hit 209/274/224 with only two extra base hits over 146 plate appearances to end the season. It’s worth noting that Delvin was dealing with some additional stuff over this time that isn’t my business to tell. Even then, watching Pérez from about the beginning of August until the end of the 2021 season was deflating. I can't imagine how deflated he felt.
It wasn't for lack of effort or adjustment, either. Throughout the last couple of months, Delvin was trying different little things with his stance. At one point he was more straight up and down. At another point he opened up his stance a little bit. For a bit, he was more relaxed prior to the pitcher starting his motion. Delvin messed around with a toe-tap for a while. He even tried to revert back to what was working for him during the first half of the season. What I noticed is that sometimes his leg-kick gets bigger than it needs to be and that, as you'd guess, throws off his timing. The toe tap also worked against him at various times. Delvin is bigger than in past years, but he's still svelte. His timing at the plate is so important for his potential as a hitter. He has quick hands and a direct swing path, but he is already an aggressive hacker that can get in trouble with lower half breaking pitches. This becomes especially true when his leg is hovering or rushed.
And this is where we are with Delvin. I was initially going to do the D40 write-ups around the Major League All-Star Break in 2021 but decided to hold off in an effort to get a clearer picture on what exactly was going on in the jumbled Minor Leagues. Had I decided to release the rankings then, Pérez would have been a top ten prospect in the organization. I believe that I had him 8th, to be precise. That second half fall-off was just too much to ignore as heavily as I would have liked to.
I don’t want these stats and these criticisms to take away from how positive 2021 was for Pérez. It was a great year for him, even with the second half struggles. Pérez is an elite athlete who does some remarkable things at shortstop. He’s a highlight reel, and he only needs to get more consistent there to be an top-tier defensive shortstop if he's ever in the Major Leagues. Sometimes he does some aggravating things defensively that are very frustrating and don't make any sense when viewed against how good he can be. Thankfully, those things happened at a substantially reduced frequency as compared to past versions of Delvin. Somewhere along the lines, Pérez became proficient at the no-look tag on the throw down, and it's really cool to watch when it isn't Javier Báez doing it.
Pérez just needs to find the consistency in his game to reach the next level. The gif below will show you just how dynamic he can be at short, and how much of a game changer his defense can be. Even if he got lucky here, the recovery, athleticism, and feel for converting this play was off of the charts. This is easily one of the best defensive plays that a position player on the farm made during the 2021 season.
We also know that Pérez has incredible speed and jump. His stolen base numbers – 24 stolen bases in 32 attempts – tells us that he can run. I will say that he should have been thrown out between 3-7 more times than he was in 2021, but various things worked in his favor. While I don’t think that stealing bases is currently a sustainable part of his game, I do know that he has the ability to do it if he can continue to work on getting better reads on the pitcher’s pickoff move. In this regard, Delvin reminds me a lot of Oscar Mercado.
Pérez is Rule Five Draft-eligible in 2022, and I would wager that the Cardinals do not protect him. I'll go even further in suspecting that he won’t get drafted. That makes 2022 another key season for Pérez. It was great to see him introduce a stronger body that bore the fruits of more power and slug for the majority of the 2021 season. It was nice to see that he was using the entire field and refining his hitting approach, as well, even if he was still vulnerable to good breaking pitches out-and-low to him. Even better for a shortstop, Pérez is clearly ready for the next defensively.
Moving forward, it’s all about building on his frame and the first half success and confidence of 2021 for Pérez.
(Quick Note: Yesterday, the Cardinals allowed Nick Plummer to elect free agency instead of adding him to the 40-man roster. I'll keep my personal thoughts on this to myself and Twitter, but I think that it probably signals that Delvin will b added onto the 40-man. It's going to be interesting to see how the 40-man shuffles out)
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In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.
Thank For Reading!!