Photo: USA Today
2021 age: 32
Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Contract: $5.5 million team option for 2021
2020 stats: 110 PA – .165/.264/.216 – 1 HR, 5 RBI – 36 wRC+ – 0.1 fWAR
2020 in review: Perez pulled his throwing shoulder the first weekend of the season’s 60-game sprint and never had much time to recover. He was placed on the injured list but dealt with the injury all year. He struggled to hit as evidenced by his 2020 stats, seeing all his underlying batted ball metrics attribute to his regression offensively from his breakout 2019 season. It didn’t affect him a ton defensively. He still threw out runners at a 28% clip when he played, though that was down from 2019 as well.
Offensive impact: In 2019 Perez hit 24 homers and had a .774 OPS, good for a 99 wRC+ mark and good offensive numbers for a defensive catcher. There’s some question whether Perez might have benefitted from the “juiced” ball, but he did average a 90.2 exit velocity and had a 10.6% barrel rate. He made hard contact at a good rate. He also had a 10% walk rate, which he’s consistently carried for four straight years now. He strikeout rate jumped from 28.3% to 34.5% in 2020. Perez likely isn’t as good as he was offensively in 2019, but he’s not as bad as he was in 2020. He’s closer to the 2019 version of himself than 2020, but perhaps a few ticks below his 2019 stats.
Defensive impact: Obviously this is Perez’s calling card. In 2019 while playing a lot of the season with a foot injury that required surgery, and he had zero passed balls in 2019 as well as 2020. He made three errors all year in 2019 and none in 2020. He threw out 40% of runners (49 attempts) in 2019 and 28% (14) in 2020.In 2019 Perez led all catchers in baseball in Fielding Runs Above Average at 28.2 (according to Baseball Prospectus’ defensive metrics) and 26 framing runs (also best in baseball).
Beyond the stats: It looks like there’s not much to be concerned about in Perez’s jump in strikeout rate. His walk rate remained the same and he actually swung and missed less in 2020 than 2019 (11.5% down to 9.9%). He swung 4% less of the time overall and his chase rate dropped 3%. It may be Perez swung less because of his shoulder soreness, trying to preserve strength and avoid any pain. Working a walk and saving his arm for defense might have been part of his plan.
2021 role: Perez came into 2021 spring training down 25lbs and in the “best shape of his life.” While that’s usually a funny storyline, Perez does look like trim and in great shape. He said he plans to play 145 games this year. His new frame might be hard to handle that many games, but he could be a good bet to start 130 games if he’s healthy. He’s the no doubt everyday starter and a team leader.
Fantasy impact: That Perez stands to play 120+ games this year, he will have playing time, which is good for catchers in fantasy. If you think that he can hit like he did in 2019, he’s worthy of a late pick as a cheap starter/backup option. If you’re in a two-catcher league, because of his playing time he’s more than draftable. He should be below league average offensively but might be close to it and play a lot, so that makes him at least near draftable in deeper leagues.