photo: Delvin Perez (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
FREE article. The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2019 continues with St. Louis’ top draft pick from 2016 who has yet to turn the corner offensively.
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Link to Delvin Perez’ player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Selected 2018 stats
TCN Scouting Grade: 5, Risk: high (click here to review scales)
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (37): Delvin Perez has now dropped three straight off-seasons in the community prospect vote from a best of #4 in the 2017 rankings to #20 last year to finishing at #37 this year. In the most recent voting, Mrperkins first raised Perez in the community rankings rather early at #10.
Mrperkins justified his early vote, comparing Perez to former prospect Oscar Mercado. Mercado looked horrible after his first two years and then turned it on and Mrperkins believes Perez could have just such a resurgence. Grenadier1 posted that Perez had a better year at State College in 2018 with fewer of the maturity issues showing up. He mentioned that Perez is still not far off from where Francisco Lindor began as a prospect, although Perez likely doesn’t have that kind of a ceiling any longer. Grenadier1 also believes that Perez will put it all together in Low-A Peoria and move back up the ladder.
Stlcard25 commented that the bat is in need of a boost, but the glove plays. Wiley was surprised by the votes for Perez, questioning why the shortstop receives a free pass for being a former steroid user and a bust. – Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore (35): St. Louis’ 2016 first round pick started showing signs of life with the bat in 2018 at Low-A (short-season) State College.
Case in point, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said on Dan McLaughlin’s Scoops with Danny Mac podcast in the early part of the New York-Penn League season he thought Perez had finally turned the corner at the plate.
“It is definitely coming together for him.” Mozeliak said on the July 9 Monday’s with Mo podcast “Obviously, that is a challenging league, and to see him have early success is great. From his standpoint, having some confidence as he moves forward is exactly what he needs. I also think getting out of Florida – he is more refreshed and there is more of a bounce in his step.
“From an offensive standpoint, it is just great to see he is swinging it.”
But after a fast start (.709 OPS in June and .645 OPS in July), Perez slowed down considerably with the stick, finishing the season with a .157 average (17-for-108) over his final 30 games with the Spikes.
Despite the struggles, State College manager Joe Kruzel liked what he saw in his young shortstop.
“It really looks like Delvin is starting to come into his own a little bit,” Kruzel said. “His defense is excellent. He is making the routine plays and then some. He is really doing a tremendous job out there on defense. Now, his offense is starting to pick up a little bit, so that is a great sign.”
From a scouting standpoint, evaluators said Perez had a down year offensively again. As an amateur, he had the look of a five-tool machine, but the positive PED test tanked his draft stock and his physicality declined significantly.
While his offense has fallen off, Perez is still an exceptional defender at shortstop with above-average speed.
Offensively, he struggles to command the strike zone, particularly having troubles picking up breaking balls. The hit tool is still a big question mark, but he did flash gap type line drive power this past season.
Overall, his body strength and durability are concerns as well, though his age and frame suggest he has room for physical growth.
And from the makeup side, scouts said Perez showed a lot of maturity compared to previous seasons.
All in all, Perez still has a chance to become an everyday shortstop, especially if he progresses offensively to grow into an all-around performer.
“Delvin has three tools you can see playing in the big-leagues,” Kruzel said. “His defense has really improved. He has got good hands. His arm strength and his ability to run. You have those three traits with him.
“Hopefully as he matures and gets a little older and keeps progressing on the path that he is with his offense, he will move in the right direction.”
Expect to see Perez open next year at Low-A Peoria.
Brian Walton (35): I was wrong again about Perez. I thought that with his pedigree, he would play well enough to make full-season Peoria out of spring training. That jump from Johnson City would have been the same move at the same age as fellow 19-year old prospect Alvaro Seijas made. The latter, a starting pitcher, stuck the entire season in the Midwest League, yet has already appeared in this prospect countdown.
So why is Perez ranked ahead of Seijas (and a number of others who put up better numbers)? The shortstop received over $2.2 million dollars to sign two and a half years ago. That premium draft pick halo continues to remain, but how long should it?
Instead of progressing to full-season ball in 2018, Perez did not break camp until short-season began, with State College in June. Though Perez had suffered a season-ending wrist injury in 2017, he played in the U-18 World Cup qualifier last November. Perhaps the extra two months of work in extended spring training was deemed best, though he was not there the entire time.
The bottom line is that this became his third year in short-season ball. At this methodical pace, Perez would play in Triple-A in 2022, only to become a minor league free agent following that season.
I am not predicting that will occur, but I am also straining to see progress. In one of our many prospect discussions at The Cardinal Nation message board, a reader drew a parallel between Perez and another former Cardinals first-round draft pick shortstop, Pete Kozma. While the latter became a journeyman rather than a star, his glove has kept him employed at Triple-A this entire decade, with annual appearances at the MLB level.
As that thought intrigued me, I looked into the numbers. Though both were high school draftees, Kozma was 19 years of age at the time and Perez just 17. That is the only comparison factor in Perez’ favor, however.
Kozma spent just his first summer in short-season ball, not three years, and he OPSed .701 (mostly at Johnson City). His OPS generally dropped as he moved closer to MLB. In his three seasons in short-season ball, Perez’ OPS was .745 (GCL) then .585 (JC/GCL) and .573 (State College). So, Perez’ OPS is falling annually, too, but on this trajectory, he is not going to hit enough to ever reach the majors.
In other words, a Kozma comp appears too lofty because Perez’ offense just is not there.
How bad is it?
You many have noticed an earlier comment about improvement in gap power. While Perez is not a burner, he has above-average speed. Still, in 2018, he managed a grand total of just five doubles and three triples in 269 plate appearances. Including a lone home run, the only one of his career to date, Perez compiled an anemic .272 SLG and .059 isolated power (ISO) in 2018.
.272 is the lowest slugging percentage of any current player in the entire Cardinals system who had at least 150 at-bats this season. Yet, as bad as they were, Perez’ 2018 power numbers represent considerable improvement over his .222 SLG and .039 ISO at Johnson City in 2017. That same summer, he had been briefly demoted to the Gulf Coast League.
Overall, Perez’ OPS+ of 76 means his offense was 24 percent below the average New York-Penn League hitter this season.
With both being middle infielders from Puerto Rico, it was understandable that Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo would take special interest in Perez. Though they worked together regularly in 2016 and 2017, Oquendo returned to the St. Louis staff for 2018. Still, the teacher and pupil remained in frequent contact.
“He (Oquendo) is like my Dad,” Perez told me in July. “I just treat him like my Dad. He teaches me a lot. I love him. He is the best guy in this organization. I talk with him daily.”
The extra attention hasn’t accomplished its desired effect with the understudy as of yet, however. As Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch wrote regarding Perez last month, “… The Cardinals and coaches also feel that he needs some improvement with his preparation and strength and devotion to the practice of being a better player.” Also noted is a need for Perez to “take responsibility”. This is consistent with what I have seen and heard independently.
Yes, Perez has the athleticism and the potential ability to go far, but we’ve been saying that for three years now. The results are not there offensively, nor is his overall trend positive. After all, in the first winter after he was drafted, Perez was our no. 3 Cardinals prospect. Last year, he fell to no. 16 and now he is no. 35.
Taking everything into account, I lowered Perez’ prospect grade considerably from last year’s “7 high” to “5 high”. In good conscience, I can no longer pretend to squint and proclaim that Perez’ ceiling is that of an MLB All-Star. An average starter seems a much more realistic goal, and honestly, that also seems far, far away.
Our 2019 top 50 series continues
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