2012 was a frustrating season for Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, but now that he’s fully recovered from the torn meniscus that saw the him miss half of last season, the 22-year old is ready to make good on the faith the the Royals showed him when they were prepared to give him the Opening Day job then.
In short, Perez is ready to take his place among the elite catchers in the league in what will be his age-23 season.
That sounds like a tall order, but all Perez has done since being called to the big leagues is rake and play excellent defense, and it doesn’t look as though he’ll be stopping any time soon.
You’d think that the injury would have slowed his progress when he made his return last season, but the backstop simply powered through it, posting a .301/.328/.471 triple-slash over 305 PA that also included 11 homers.
His on-base skills are just about the only flaw that could really hold him back, but that he makes contact at such a high rate (91% in 2012) mean that he rarely strikes out, and that approach should be able to sustain high BA going forward; where Perez doesn’t draw walks (3.9 BB% in 2012), he makes up for it by being a line-drive machine (24.2 LD%).
The Royals will have no problem anointing the big Venezuelan as the primary backstop in 2013, and a full season from Perez might mean the difference between a good lineup and a great one. There will be some concerns about whether his size will continue to affect the strength of his knees, but the 76 games without incident last season suggests that that Perez is ready for a full season’s worth of work.
A .300+ PA with 20 homers – both very possible numbers – could make the 22-year old the only catcher in the American League to hit that mark in 2013, and even if he’s slotting toward the bottom of the lineup, he’d present a threat at the plate that most teams simply do not have.
Combined with his defensive skills, his ceiling is simply sky-high. Considering that he was a 2.6 fWAR player in 2012 despite missing half of the season, a a 5.0+ fWAR season could be on tap for Perez in 2013.
In 2012, that would have made him the most valuable catcher in the league, along with Joe Mauer.
Can he scale those very optimistic expectations this year? Perez has never done anything besides exceed them when he’s been healthy enough to stay on the field, and I wouldn’t bet against it.