When asked to name the best catchers in baseball, most people wouldn’t argue with the inclusion of Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Carlos Ruiz in the National League or Joe Mauer and Matt Wieters out of the American League. There’s about to be a third name added to the AL list, however, as Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals prepares to be step up this season into some elite company.
After just one full season in the big leagues, the 23-year-old Perez has already flashed all the abilities of an elite catcher capable of winning multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards. Last season, Perez hit .301 with 11 home runs, 39 RBI and an OPS of .798 over 76 games played. He had to split time behind home plate in 2012 with Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero after a torn meniscus forced him to miss much of last year, which cut into the impact he was able to make.
This year, however, the catching job is Perez’s. Both Pena and Quintero walked this offseason in free agency, signing with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively. Ned Yost saw enough from his young backstop last season to trust in the young Venezuelan with his pitching staff, and the club will be rewarded for their faith.
Perez is already one of the best defensive catchers in baseball with an impressive ability to call a game, frame pitches and block throws. He can shut down a running game, catching 42 percent of baserunners attempting to steal on him last season, which would have led the AL if he had qualified. He shows great maturity at the plate, as well, with the potential to hit 20 home runs and maintain a high average. He’s a complete player behind home plate who is ready to make a splash for the Royals.
The key for Perez will be his health. If he can avoid another major setback and stay on the field, he will rank among the very best catchers in the game and be a major factor for the Royals’ chances in 2013.