photo: Delvin Perez (Springfield Cardinals FANatic Photos)
At number 30 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a former first-rounder who is running out of time to make his mark offensively. FREE report!
Age: 23 years old
Height/Weight – 6’3/175
Acquired: Selected in the first round, 23rd overall, in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft
Primary team in 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Finished 2021: Springfield Cardinals (Double-A)
Prior Top 50 rankings – 2021 #42, 2020 #33, 2019 #35, 2018 #16, 2017 #3
Click on the above photo to be taken to Perez’ player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Jake Tweedie’s scouting report
(current grade/future grade)
It had been all quiet on the Perez front until the 2021 season unfolded. Previously struggling to be consistent, the shortstop created a renewed level of energy around him this past summer.
The return of home runs (4) and stolen bases (24) added a bit more to his game than what he already had demonstrated.
Struggling at times at the plate with his short swing, Perez is prone to striking out far too often (321 times in 1528 career plate appearances), however the development of his base hits and finding the gaps with higher velocity hits has enabled him to step up his game. There is little chance of Perez becoming a power hitter, but a cleaner swing and action may allow him to make more genuine hits into the outfield. He again needs to focus on being consistent throughout. In the first half of 2021, he had the makings of a first round pick, but he started to show signs of fatigue and his season took a bit of a nosedive.
He has an interesting stance and swing. Perez looks good before the pitch, but he looks like he was over swinging far too often. He is already out in front of the lower breaking pitches, while he looks a bit more comfortable with faster thrown offerings. Perez’ aggression can get the best of him and have him swinging at air shots, but he has a nice swing path and quick hands to make plays happen occasionally.
Defensively, he is one of the best in the organization. The athleticism, his play-reading, his quick hands and quick reactions allow him to possess all the qualities needed to be a Major League fielder. However, his batting and inconsistencies let him down somewhat.
His quick reactions are due to his lightning speed. He is quick in the field but also quick between the bases. 24 stolen bases is no small feat, but again his inconsistencies with his running decisions should have resulted in him being thrown out more often than he was.
Perez has the potential to be a solid fielder, and a decent contact hitter in the big leagues, but he needs to improve his offense if he is to progress to the top of the organization and stay there.
Future Value: 40
Brian Walton’s environmental impact report
By now, the story of Delvin Perez should be pretty well-known among the Cardinals fan community, fitting with his draft pedigree. His first-round selection in June 2016 was a long time ago, however, as 2022 is his sixth year on this top prospect list.
Today, the exceptional fielder is MLB-ready in that aspect of his game, but his offense has been far enough below average for so long that it has put any meaningful MLB projections in serious limbo.
Perez has yet to have a good of a year with the bat as in his first partial season of 2016 – in the rookie level Gulf Coast League. That is the case whether comparing all four slash stats or his rookie-year wRC+ in the GCL – 123 – his only season in which he hit above league-average.
In his age 20 season in 2019, Perez batted .269 in 118 games at Low-A and was recognized as a Midwest League mid-season All-Star. Even so, his wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) of 95 meant his results were five percent below average for MWL hitters. His .654 OPS ranked 10th – on his own Peoria team – while his walk rate declined and his rate of strikeouts increased year to year. Further, his 2019 BABIP of .359 was a career high, suggesting good fortune was at least partially in play.
In 2020, Perez was a repeater in the organization’s January instructional camp in Jupiter, but was given the summer off, not being one of the 60 in the active pool of players between St. Louis and its alternate camp in Springfield, MO. Newly signed draftee shortstop Masyn Winn was there, however.
In these annual rankings, Perez slid from his initial no. 3 heading into 2017 to no. 16 to three straight years languishing in the 30’s and 40’s – among other less heralded crapshoots.
2021 recap – professional
Perez kept alive his dubious career-long streak of never having earned an in-season promotion, spending all of 2021 at Double-A Springfield. To his credit, he had skipped over High-A, the level at which he would have competed during the lost season of 2020.
While some may suggest that Perez made progress offensively in 2021, I don’t see it. His overall wRC+ was 80, 20% below the average league hitter, despite a BABIP which remained very high (.344).
There were positives, albeit relatively brief ones. For a lone 30-day period, Perez seemed to have figured it out with the bat. In June, he launched three of his four home runs and slashed .347/.405/.525/.930.
However, that was his best month – by almost 300 points of OPS compared to his next-best 30 days!
To open 2021, his May OPS was .609 and he followed his stellar June with monthly marks of .636 (July) and .442 (August) before finishing at .553 in September.
So which was the outlier – the four bad months or the one exceptional one?
A veteran scout said, “Perez made improvements (in 2021) – but not enough. He can play the field at an MLB level, but his bat gets sawed off.”
Perez will be left exposed in the Major League phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, if/when the delayed proceedings are held. It is the second consecutive year he was not protected. Same as before, I do not expect any of the other 29 organizations will be prepared to give Perez a spot on their 40- and 26-man rosters, in which case he will remain a Cardinal.
With Perez’ minor league free agency looming, the Cardinals may as well push him ahead to Memphis in 2022. However, even if he makes the Triple-A roster, daily playing time may not be assured. Other more experienced middle infielders who may open back with the Redbirds include Kramer Robertson, Evan Mendoza, Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman along with minor league free agent signee Anderson Tejeda.
In what is hardly a newsflash, the pyramid narrows as St. Louis approaches. Among the five names just mentioned, Perez is behind four of them and arguably, all five. The solution is to start hitting, of course.
While another former first-round pick who wasn’t panning out offensively (Nick Plummer) finally found his swing in 2021 between Double-A and Triple-A, there seems less reason to hope that Perez could accomplish the same.
Further, even Plummer’s breakout 2021 wasn’t enough for him to earn his way onto the 40-man roster after five prior lackluster seasons. He is now a New York Met.
2022 represents both Perez’ current and future opportunity as a Cardinal. If he can somehow make the 40-man roster and is called upon to join St. Louis, it will probably have to be in 2022. Otherwise, Perez will likely have to attempt to further his career elsewhere.
While reaching the big leagues is surely possible due to his glove, his bat just isn’t strong enough to keep him there for long. Unfortunately for Perez, the days of a great-fielding, weak-bat shortstop starring in the Majors are history.
Another former Cardinals first-round shortstop, Pete Kozma, was able to accrue parts of eight seasons in the bigs. His career minor league OPS is .645, just one point lower than Perez’ mark to date.
So, hope remains. It just must be moderated significantly after multiple seasons falling short of expectations.
MLB debut: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: 2020
Our 2022 Top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles planned daily into early 2022.
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