Many pegged Carlos Pérez to contend for the Angels’ 2016 starting catcher gig when the team acquired him last winter, but few (if any) predicted that he’d come into spring with the job more or less locked down. Thanks to the offensive collapse of Chris Iannetta and some stellar play from Pérez down the stretch, though, that’s where we find ourselves. Geovany Soto should get considerable time behind the plate alongside the young Venezuelan, but so long as Pérez is pegging runners at a crazy clip and putting up good-ish numbers in the batter’s box he should see a bulk of the starts.
Position: C | Age (2016): 25
Bats: R | Throws: R
Height: 6’0″ | Weight: 210
2015 WAR: 1.1
2015 in a Tweet
For much of his rookie season Pérez was overmatched at the plate. He was anything but behind it, nabbing 38% of would-be base-stealers.
None of the projections systems think much of Pérez at the plate, but that’s to be expected. The systems are designed to take the information available, weight it for level and recency, and spit out a likely outcome; they’re not meant to augur breakouts. Given his .250/.299/.346 line in just 283 PA with Angels last year, only a faulty system would project a better slash line at the big-league level for 2016. That Pérez will most likely destroy the projections in terms of playing time and performance is just a matter of him developing at the plate in a manner beyond their purview.
Let me explain further. Pérez went through just one level per season in his early days in the Toronto system, dominating offensively (~.820 OPS) until he hit a snag in 2011 at Single-A (.675 OPS). Held back for the first time in his career, Pérez turned things around in his second go at A-Ball (.804 OPS) and was dealt to the Astros mid-season. Houston immediately promoted him to High-A to finish 2012, where Pérez crushed it (.778 OPS). He more or less skipped Double-A in 2013, jumping to Triple-A and struggling (.672 OPS) for much of the year. After another, slightly better season at Triple-A (.709 OPS) in 2014—the year he should have started Triple-A, arguably—Pérez finally hit his stride at Salt Lake in 2015 (.973 OPS) and forced his way into Anaheim, where he mostly struggled with the bat (.645 OPS).
There is a pattern here, even if it is a somewhat convoluted one. If Pérez’s past performance in a level-per-year timeline is indicative of his future performance, then he should be on track for a breakout performance in the big leagues this season. He has had his struggles at the plate, but with enough time he’s always managed to make the necessary adjustments and became a legitimate weapon in the batter’s box. Whether he can continue that trend against the best of the best remains to be seen. I’m optimistic, especially when glancing at his .338/.398/.440 slash line from last September and October.
Pérez possesses some pull power, if you squint, but his bread and butter in terms of extra-base hits will probably end up being line drives in the gaps and down the lines. If you compare between the charts above, it becomes fairly clear that anything Pérez hits that isn’t a line drive or a ground ball lands in someone’s glove. The numbers back this up: He batted just .052 fly balls last season (lg avg was .156), which accounted for 38% of his balls in play. Guys like Mike Trout or Albert Pujols can benefit from getting more loft on contact because they have the pop to deposit the ball in the seats no matter the launch angle. Carlos Pérez does not have that pop—the more level the bat plane the better for Carlos.
The charts say the numbers are from 2013 to 2015, but they’re really just from last year. As such, there’s really not much to glean definitively from them because the sample sizes are too small. Best I can tell from the chart on the left, pitchers sort of experimented with Pérez over the course of the season to see what exactly they were up against. Some challenged him right down the middle, others tried jamming him inside under the hands, and many went with the standard low-and-away trope. And Pérez seemed to hit all of those locations well, so… I’m sure the book on the young catcher will develop quickly as 2016 progresses, but for now it’s still pretty nebulous.
Carlos Pérez’s spot in the organization can be traced directly back to former Angels right-hander Paul Byrd.
What to Watch For
The catcher framing and blocking metrics were mostly ambivalent about Pérez’s receiving last season, but have had good things to say about it in the past. With his history of positive ratings the chance to work with framing legend José Molina this spring, I’m throwing all my eggs in the “Perez will soon be an awesome receiver” basket.
A Bold Prediction
Pérez will quickly become known as the fastest arm in the West, and as a result runners will all but stop attempting steals against him. But it will be too late. Pérez will already have a good enough single-season CS% to best Yadier Molina’s modern era record (64%).