Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Delvin Perez - Short Stop
Drafted in the 1st round (23rd overall) of the 2016 draft
Full Season-A Peoria
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This is the story of a 20-year-old former first round pick that was never going to be the player that we were both led to believe he'd be and hoped that he'd be. I am one of the evaluators that is to blame for this false sense of optimism brought on by hype. I sincerely apologize.
Unfortunately, this is how it often works. It's why the amateur draft is so tough. Even as it's become easier to measure a players skills and project a players skills, the draft still seems to be a blind spot in talent evaluation and more proof as too just how hard it is to evaluate talent. Also, the success and development as brought on by the amateur draft helps to, once again, illustrate just how the game of baseball is.
Everyone already knows the first couple of chapters of his story, but here's a quick recap: Perez appears to be a sure-fire top-10 selection in the 2016 draft but falls to the Cardinals at 23 because of a positive test for HGH. He gets off to a great start with the organization in 2016, but then really struggles in 2017 while showing signs of immaturity (like throwing equipment). He entered 2018 as a wild card that seemed like he was either poised to break out or be exposed as, what the kids like to call, "a bust."
of course, as so often happens with baseball and prospects, Perez's future still doesn't have a narrative to settle on. As we sit here on the precipice of the 2019 season, there are still as many questions with as few answers as there were at this point one year ago.
Yes, Delvin's 2018 was bad. Statistically, it was closer to a nightmare than it was to even being "acceptable". However, the offensive stats only tell (less-than) half of the story. Entering the season, the major concern with Delvin was his mental maturity. I've gone back and watch nearly all of the games that are available to me and I can tell you that he never took one play off. He never mailed it in running to first. He never gave up on a single play on the field. The hustle was there, and that's a BIG positive that needs to get more attention than it's getting. I know that it's only one small play in a thousand plays during a half-season, but I really love watching this .gif that displays some of the engaged hustled that Perez exhibited in 2018:
Perez also took some very large steps in his pursuit of becoming a stable defensive short stop. His range in both directions looked solid and there were a couple of times that his arm bailed him out of a bobble or a mishandle. Hustle and defense can take a player as gifted athletically as Perez and push him to his defensive potential. If there's one thing that Pete Kozma taught us, it's that athletic defense at short with first round pedigree is maybe just enough to keep you relevant for longer than you deserve. The .gif below is a very good play. It's the instinctive-type that good short stops make. Lazy, unengaged players don't even make a try at this play. It will also give you a good indication as to how athletic and quick Perez can be at short:
This next .gif is another important one. This is on a grounder in the third inning of the 7/17/2018 game against West Virginia. In the first inning, the speedy Pirates' "prospect" Raul Siri hit a ball to Delvin that he let play him a little bit. Delvin didn't rush his throw, and that caused the play to be closer at first than it should have been. In Siri's next at-bat, Perez took note of that and this was the play that he made:
He rushes his throw just a little bit and that almost takes Brady Whalen off of the first base bag (but take note of how well Whalen does there), but his footwork is great and so is the sharp little backhand that puts him in a great position to throw. I want to point out that his arm is stronger than what he shows here, and I believe that part of the reason that he pulls Whalen off of the bag is because he's doing more aiming than he is throwing. If he lets it loose here he's putting it on Whalen's chest. This is a very good play and a very good adjustment. Still, with room for improvement.
At this point, it appears that his issues will all be offensive-related. I believe that this is, in part, because Perez is built like one of my 14-year-old little leaguers, and not even the advanced one that had his first growth spurt at eleven and is starting to show signs of facial hair.
No, Perez is skinny. Fangraphs has him listed at 6'3" and 175 pounds but that would make him the skinniest 175 pound person that I've ever seen. I'd peg him at closer to 165, and that's because I'm so much heavier than 165 that I have no idea what that even looks like. I want to say that he looks like he's 130, but that can't be correct, right?!
I do not expect him to ever be able to hit for any type of authority while his body type is that of a Calvin Klein underwear model.
He needs to bulk up or else he's just going to be a singles hitter that gets doubles because of his speed. If his swing wasn't so long and his hands weren't so weak then MAYBE he'd be able to hit for a little more power. Instead, what you see is a hitter that tries as hard as he can to leverage his lower body (hips) into something resembling power upon contact. However, it ends up looking more like what would happen if you tried to hit a medicine ball with a wiffle ball bat. I combed through everyone of his hits that I could find from the center field angle and this is the strongest that you'll see him swing:
Now that I'm Finished being ultra-critical, I would also like to point out that Delvin's final stat line is weighed down HEAVILY by an August that victimized him. At the end of the business day on July 31st Perez was hitting 260/353/313 with a 12.7% walk rate and a 20.7% strike out rate. Again, NO POWER TO BE HAD AT ALL, but he was taking good at-bats and doing whatever he could to get on base.
He was fouling off pitches and working pitchers and it was actually pretty impressive. Then, August came, and from that point until the end of the season he hit 157/235/222 with a 7.6% walk rate and a 19.3% strikeout rate. And this is why it's so important for him to add weight and muscle to both the lower and upper halves of his body. Singles hitters usually need an extra dose of luck to be productive. Perez showed great instincts on the base paths in 2018 and he has the speed to earn himself some infield singles. Unfortunately, that's just not going to be enough. I also believe that a little extra weight will help sustain him over the course of an entire season. As currently constructed, he's going to fatigue-out by the end of a full season.
His defense also took a small step back in August but it wasn't as noticeable or worrisome. I wouldn't doubt for one second that he was taking his struggles at the plate into the field. That's not uncommon for a teenager (which is what Perez was for the entire 2018 season), but it's something to keep a close eye on with Perez moving forward. Especially because of some of the maturity questions that were raised at the onset of the 2017 season.
Other than that, Perez has done an interesting job of developing as an all-field hitter. He's starting to hit the ball up the middle a bit more and he's lowering his groundball rate. Sure, it "dropped" to 49.7% in 2018, but that was more in line with the hitter that he was in 2016 than the "hitter" that he was in 2017. The one positive about him putting the ball on the ground is that he is going to have a handful of infield singles.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While we thought that we might have a better idea about Perez's standings as a prospect by now, we still don't. He'll be 20-years-old for the entirety of the 2019 season and I fully expect him to start the year in Peoria. It will be a tough challenge to hold up physically for his first turn with a full season affiliate without bulking up for the ballet-dancer-bodied Perez. I'm anxious to see how it goes for him. Right now, at best, he's more Pete Kozma than anything else. Without a gain in mass he'll be Adeiny Hechavarria at best. however (and luckily), there is still plenty of time for Perez to gain weight and real muscle mass and blossom into something substantially better than what we've see so far. I'll go on record as saying that he's the third best defensive infielder in the organization behind short stop Edwin Figuera and third baseman Evan Mendoza.
MAY 1st UPDATE
Delvin has been exactly Delvin, and nothing I said above has changed. One thing is for sure, though, and it's that Delvin is at his best when he's working counts. That's just something that he isn't doing right now. There was a stretch early in the season when he was hitting and getting on base because he was working counts, but that's gone away in the last ten games, or so. That's going to be a key for him, especially if he isn't capable of putting on weight or driving the ball.
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Thanks For Reading!!