Saturday, November 5, 2016

2016 Player Reviews: Williams Perez, Jace Peterson, A.J. Pierzynski

The World Series is over and free agency is just about to hit in earnest and I'm still trying to finish off these reviews. Hey, progress is progress, right?

Did you miss the last edition? I got your back. Want to catch up on all of the series? I have you covered as well.

*Ages reflect the player's age on opening day, 2017

Williams Perez, RHP, 25 years-old

2016 Review: For the second consecutive year, Perez was in the mix, but injuries limited him to just 84 innings overall. In some ways, that was 84 too many. While he threw a little less than half of the major league innings he threw in 2015, Perez was essentially the same pitcher as far as FIP goes. He was a bit unlucky (58% LOB%) which contributed to an ERA over 6. We also saw Perez change up his pitch selection this season and utilize a four-seamer to keep batters from keying in on his sinker too much.

2017 Projection: The problem for Perez is not new. It has followed him throughout his young career. We know he can throw strikes and induce his fair share of groundballs, but does he have the ability to get the ball past hitters? In the majors, the answer seems to be no. Roughly 10% of all pitches thrown toward hitters become swinging strikes. For Perez, that mark is about 6%. To put that in perspective - over the last two seasons, only six pitchers have 150 innings in the majors and a worse swinging strike percentage. That's not enough to keep a pitcher from being successful, but it certainly doesn't make things any easier. Pitching to contact is not a terrible strategy, especially for a sinker baller, but major league hitters are much better at pounding mistakes than minor league hitters. Perez is a decent depth guy, but short of developing a plus pitch that he can get whiffs on, his value should be limited to emergency starts when he makes the short trip over from Gwinnett.

By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop)
[CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Jace Peterson, 2B, 26 years-old

2016 Review: Year 2 of #JaceOnBase saw Peterson reach base at a much higher rate (.350 to .314) with the help of an improved walk rate (+3.4% compared to 2015). While that pushed Jace's numbers up a bit, he still lagged well behind the major league average for second basemen. It's worth mentioning that his full-season stats include an awful start that prompted the Braves to demote him to Gwinnett after 21 games in which Peterson slashed .182/.260/.205. After returning, Peterson slashed .265/.362/.389 over the remaining 94 games. That's definitely something to build upon. Expected to have a future role as a plus utility player, Peterson picked up a start at third and one in center field - along with nearly a dozen in left field. After solid, though unspectacular, defensive metrics in 2015, Peterson's numbers at second looked pretty ugly. I tend to believe that is more statistical variation than actual performance and I'm comfortable saying that Jace is an average defender at second. Nothing special, but likely not a defensive issue to concern yourself with.

2017 Projection: Peterson is a fine stopgap at second base, especially if the Braves bring in someone to protect Peterson from seeing too many southpaws. Against lefties, Peterson has hit a miserable .214/.269/.268 with just one of his career 13 homeruns. Paired with a better option than Gordon Beckham or Chase d'Arnaud, Peterson could keep second base warm until Ozzie Albies arrives in the majors. The Braves could certainly do better than Peterson, but with Albies hopefully on his way to Atlanta sometime next summer, is it worth the effort to try to improve second base? Probably not, though, like I said, a better platoon partner would be helpful.

A.J. Pierzynski, C, 40-years old

2016 Review: That fountain of youth he found in 2015 dried up in 2016 and the fall from grace was epic. A year after slashing .300/.339/.430, Pierzynski struggled to the tune of .219/.243/.304. He went from a 111 wRC+ to a 41. His wOBA fell nearly 80 points. Eventually, the Braves moved onto Tyler Flowers full-time before sending Pierzynski to the DL. He returned briefly in September, but again hit the DL to end the season.

2017 Projection: Is there much to project? Will he officially retire? He'll have a tough time finding a team at the age of 40 that's interested in a catcher who couldn't even on-base his weight last year. The Braves certainly won't be too keen on a reunion so it would seem to be time for Pierzysnki and the $64 million and change he has earned over his career to head home.

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