Sunday, February 28, 2016

Random Former Prospect Sunday - Jose Peraza

During the season, Sundays are set aside to take a look at a prospect at random, but with the minor league season over, I wasn't sure what to do for my Sunday article until this nugget of an idea came my way. How about we look at players who ranked in Baseball America's Top 100 while part of the Braves' organization, yet never appeared for the Braves? Over the next few months, I'll take a look at the prospects that were traded or simply faded away and just to keep up with my theme, I randomized the players.

Prospects can blind you.

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Jose Peraza did for me when he came up through the ranks. I saw the speed (back-to-back 60 steal years), high batting average (especially for his age), and grew immediately fond of him. In fact, this will be the 44th blog post at Walk-Off Walk that has mentioned Peraza so he's received a good deal of press from just me. I loved him so much that I ignored that for a leadoff hitter, he was swing-happy and completely dependent on a high batting average and speed to be at all effective in the in that role. No, that didn't matter to me. He was going to be a star.

And he still might be. However, my expectations have decreased and I don't think I'm alone in that.

Signed during the summer of 2010 out of Venezuela, Peraza made his professional debut the following year in the Dominican Summer League. His numbers really didn't capture anyone's attention at that point. The next year, however, some of us took notice. Splitting time between Danville and the Gulf Coast League, Peraza posted a triple slash of .296/.350/.374 in 2012. He swiped 25 bases, but remember that was only in 53 games. He was at this point an interesting prospect, but not a guy jockeying for position in the top 20 prospects.

That changed in 2013. While his triple slash was remarkably similar with a 12 point drop in overall OPS, he swiped 64 bases in 79 attempts while showing a decent eye (34 walks/64 K's). He also had a knack for using his speed to turn doubles into triples, picking up eight of them. When, in 2014, he showed that it wasn't a fluke by hitting .339 with 60 steals in 110 games between Lynchburg and Mississippi, it became clear that the Braves had a great prospect on their hands. He had moved to second base, where nobody was blocking him, and he sat atop many Top Braves Prospects rankings.

But that was also part of what blinded us. Yes, he was the top Braves prospect, but at the time, that didn't say much on its own. The system was short on impact talent so whatever talent was there was propped up by how desperate things were. It reminds me of when Kyle Davies arrived in the majors. He was a decent prospect and all, but his value was made higher by being one of the few starting prospects that looked potentially good as the Braves transitioned into the post Big Three-era.

I'm not saying Peraza will have a similar career to Davies, but as we overlooked Davies' weaknesses, we overlooked Peraza's and they were damning. After walking 34 times in 2013, he walked 34 times TOTAL the next two seasons. He found a way to hit .293 at two different Triple-A stops in 2015 and manage just a .316 OBP. If you want to relate that to the majors, since 1990, only eight players who received at least 500 plate appearances hit at least .290 with an OBP below .320 and each reached double digits in homeruns, something that seems unlikely to happen with Peraza.

Now, of course we tell ourselves that prospects will improve and mature and many times, they do. Peraza has such great bat control that he can put the ball in play at a high frequency and if counting stats attract your attention, he has the potential to post 200-hit seasons with strong stolen base numbers. But his likelihood of success with such limitations are low.

Fans grew upset when he was included in the Hector Olivera trade last July and I wondered why. The Braves had replaced Peraza on the Future Leadoff Hitter depth chart with a player with more dynamic ability in Mallex Smith while having a better all-around player in Ozhaino Albies as an impact middle infield prospect. But then I remembered...our perception of Peraza might not match the reality of the situation. In over 2000 plate appearances as a professional, Peraza has walked just 98 times. As long as he hits .300, that's acceptable (though frustrating). But if that average drops, we start having the debate on whether Peraza is a suitable major league starter.

That's not exactly the kind of debate we should have on a guy who was once considered the top prospect in the system, but again, that's not to say that Peraza is a bust. He's got plenty of time to establish himself as a contributing major league player and/or improve certain flaws in his game. It wasn't fair to him that we overranked him and labeled him as the "next big thing" when his skillset was so limited. But as the 2016 season approaches and Peraza is with his third team since this time last year, it's important to remember that its his limitations that make him so available. Teams love what skills he does have, but he's never going to rank as untouchable. The Braves and Dodgers proved that.

Previous Random Former Prospects...
Tom Redington
Dennis Burlingame
J.R. Graham
Elvis Andrus
Bobby Smith
Bubba Nelson
Neftali Feliz
Gorkys Hernandez
Matt Belisle
Matt McClendon

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