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Better know a Tiger: Hernan Perez could fill a utility role for the Tigers

Hernan Perez spent almost three months with the Tigers in 2013. Will he be back for 2014?

Hernan Perez poses for his Spring Training photograph, but can he make the club?
Hernan Perez poses for his Spring Training photograph, but can he make the club?

Our first two position players may have tested the depth of your knowledge, as neither have made an appearance in Detroit. Turning our attention to second base, we see a more familiar name: Hernan Perez.

Perez entered the offseason at the top of the depth chart at second base, with the expected departure of free agent Omar Infante. That changed when Dombrowski flipped Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler. But Perez will not simply be discarded, just delayed.

Hernan Perez was born in or near San Francisco de Asis, Aragua, Venezuela depending which source you believe. He was signed as a 16 year old in 2007 and arrived stateside in 2009. He was promoted to the West Michigan Whitecaps at 19 and was named to the Midwest League All Star team in 2012.

His last four minor league seasons show steady improvement.

Year Level Games PA SB BA OBP SLG
2010 Single-A 124 507 5 .235 .273 .298
2011 Single-A 129 566 23 .258 .314 .364
2012 Advanced-A 124 479 27 .261 .298 .338
2013 Double-A & Triple-A 103 458 28 .301 .330 .410
2103 Major League / Detroit 34 71 1 .197 .217 .227

Perez had a shot of espresso on June 9, 2012 when Jhonny Peralta took a few days off to be with his wife for the birth of a child. He went 1-for-2, which means little except that the back of his baseball card has a .500 batting average.

Perez returned on July 9, 2013 when Infante was placed on the disabled list with a sprained ankle, and stayed when Peralta was caught with his hand in the Biogenesis jar. His 34 games were unimpressive, with only one extra-base hit and one stolen base. He stole 28 bases in 103 minor league games, but a .197 batting average and two walks led to few opportunities in Detroit. By the postseason he was reduced to a pinch-running role.

Keys to Success

Perez needs to develop into an adequate defensive shortstop for versatility, and grow as a hitter. He turns 23 next month so time is on his side. His strikeout rate is not crazy high, and he has speed. He needs to turn more contact into hits. He is too young and too right-handed for a platoon role.

Odd Numbers

Though Perez is thought of as a second baseman, his minor league stats show nearly identical 1360 chances at shortstop and 1366 at second base. The Tigers originally saw him as a shortstop, and have given him more time at second base as he has advanced.

2014 Outlook

Steve Lombardozzi is penciled in to replace Ramon Santiago as the backup middle infielder, though he has almost no experience at shortstop. Rajai Davis will be the pinch runner when he is not starting. Thus Perez should get comfortable with the idea of playing in Toledo, hoping for a few quick trips up I-75 to Detroit. Long term, he could be the next Ramon Santiago.