photo: Yefri Perez (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
Following an offseason during which the St. Louis Cardinals continued to stack up organizational depth with their established surplus of outfielders, they have added yet another who will likely contribute in the upper levels of the pipeline this season.
And he is a speedy one at that.
On Friday, former Marlins prospect Yefri Perez inked a minor league deal with the Cardinals.
Perez, 27, comes off a disappointing 2017 season for many reasons. For one, he was taken off Miami’s 40-man roster in May, then struggling to the tune of a .169/.280/.242 slash line at Double-A Jacksonville over only 248 at-bats. He suffered a right heel contusion on July 21 and missed the remainder of the year as a result.
Despite that, the switch-hitter, who some scouts say has world-class speed (80 grade), stole an otherworldly like 71 bases in 2015 and appeared in 12 major-league games just two years ago.
The native of Bani, Dominican Republic has elite wheels, but his offensive profile is entirely devoid of punch (.612 career OPS; 20 game power) and often struggles to make hard contact with the potential for an occasional double. Scouts say Perez does have a good short game with a “quick, downward-slashing swing” that he utilizes for singles and is also a good bunter to be able to maximize his speed.
As an aggressive hitter who has made an effort to add patience to his profile, knowing what pitchers are giving him and putting the ball in play will be Perez’s key for any offensive impact at the upper levels.
Defensively, Perez came into pro ball as a shortstop but moved to the outfield in 2013 as Miami tried to expand his versatility to help his one tool play up even further. Not only has he played center and short, but he has experience at second base with time in both left and right field thanks to a solid-average arm helping him hold down those spots.
He projects as an average defender, who can outrun misreads in the outfield and can play the middle infield positions in a pinch.
Ultimately, Perez received his first big-league promotion in July of 2016 and was used as a pinch-runner for the Marlins. That may be his role if he is to reach the majors again, but his versatility could allow him to sneak on a roster as a 25th man at best.
With the Cardinals, Perez should open the 2018 campaign at Double-A Springfield, where he would join a crowded outfield of names that could include Randy Arozarena, Granden Goetzman, Victor Roache, and two-way player Jordan Schafer. Other candidates include Angel Moreno, Shane Billings, Blake Drake, Thomas Spitz, Lane Thomas, J.B. Woodman, and Vince Jackson, who all are looking to move up. Then, there are the four outfielders from low-A Peoria last season – Dylan Carlson, Matt Fiedler, Mick Fennell, and Nick Plummer.
The Cardinals outfield surplus now reaches a whopping 16 players for eight outfield jobs just between Springfield and Palm Beach alone, so Perez will need to more than stand out to remain in the organization. For now, he appears on our Springfield roster.
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