No. 27: Hernan Perez, 2B/SS
Hernan Perez was signed by the Tigers as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2007. After spending the 2008 season the Venezuelan Summer League (VSL), Perez came stateside in 2009 to play with the Rookie League Tigers, followed by full stints in A ball in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 he was promoted to Advanced-A Lakeland, where he posted overall decent numbers, although the .636 OPS leaves something to be desired. However, Perez did show some good things, including 27 stolen bases, and only a 14% strikeout rate, which really isn't too bad. However, he only walked 24 times in nearly 500 PA's, a number which is staggeringly low considering he'll never be a guy to have a high SLG% to counteract a low OBP. Overall, Perez had a decent year in 2012, including his 2 game cameo in Detroit when the Tigers were desperate for bodies that could play the middle infield positions.
Perez stands 6'1" and weighs around 185lbs, but has a good baseball body. He's an easy plus defender at 2nd base with a plus arm, and earns above average grades for both his defense and arm from the shortstop position as well, which speaks to his defensive versatility. He is also a plus runner, which shows with his 27 steals (while only being caught 4 times) in 2012 at High-A. Scouts are split as to how they feel about Perez's bat, with some not seeing it capable of playing every day at the major league level, while others believing it has quality MLB projection. I haven't seen enough of Perez to make a strong case either way, but I tend to side more with those who feel his ceiling is that of a utility guy. Off the cuff, I like Perez's swing mechanics. It's a very simple swing, allowing him to make solid contact consistently and drive the ball better than you'd think based on his size, but his inability to take walks does bother me a bit. I could see Perez consistently hitting in the .250-.260 range at the MLB level, which is all well and good, but if he can only combine that with a .300 OBP and .340 SLG, does that really constitute an everyday player? What baffles me is that Perez does have pretty solid pitch recognition skills, but his strike zone discipline is lacking. Rather than swinging and missing a ton at pitches out of the zone, Perez makes a lot of contact, but a ton of that contact turns into weak outs (rather than strikeouts), which is why you see a low OPB but not high strikeout totals. As far as power goes, he actually has some solid gap power and the ability to put the occasional one out of the park, but it's still a well below-average tool.
On the whole, I think Perez profiles best as a utility infielder. He can play plus D at 2B with above average D at SS, pinch run more than capably, start every once in awhile, pinch hit when the team needs a bunt laid down, etc, etc. Overall, that's a very valuable member of a baseball team, and I think Perez will end up as a much better version of Ramon Santiago or Danny Worth, but that doesn't make him the 2nd baseman of the future, at least in my mind. My pick for the 2nd baseman of the future will be introduced to you in the coming weeks as this series continues (hint: He's far away from the majors). I think Perez will head to Double A-Erie in 2013 where he'll hopefully be paired with Dixon Machado as Erie's double play combo (mostly because I'd like to see Eugenio Suarez go to Lakeland rather than Erie, at least at first). Ideally after spending 2013 in Erie, Perez will spend 2014 competing at Toledo for time in the majors, and by 2015 be ready to take over as the key utility guy on the Tigers bench.