When it comes to developing international prospects, teams have to take it slow. The hope is that the player will be developed enough by their fifth year to justify a spot on the 40-man roster and be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. The race against the clock is one that is risky for some prospects, especially those who develop slowly. Teams can leave the player unprotected and run the risk of letting him get selected, or they can protect the player and hope they aren’t leaving a better player out to dry.
Such is the issue with Detroit Tigers prospect Arvicent Perez, a catcher they signed out of Venezuela in September 2011. Progressing as would be expected through his first two seasons, Perez apparently hit a bump in the developmental road. He spent parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons with the Single-A West Michigan Whitecaps, with little success. His third attempt was the charm, though, and he spent the 2016 season tearing up the Midwest League.
Perez’s strong suit has always been his defense. Much like Detroit’s starting catcher, James McCann, Perez’s glove is far ahead of his bat. Also like McCann, Perez’s most standout tool has always been his arm. One report from TigsTown back in 2013 cited pop times as low as 1.90 seconds, and said that Perez could even improve on that time. His ability to shut down the running game has earned him consistent plus grades from MLB.com, who gave his arm a 65 rating (nearly double-plus) both years he has been on their list of Detroit’s top prospects. That is quite impressive, especially considering that McCann never received a grade higher than 60.
Perez pairs his high-octane arm with a steady hand and a natural ease behind the plate. Unfortunately, he is still raw, and his glove work will need improving. Scouts think he as potential there, though, projecting him to become an above average defender. ESPN’s Keith Law praised his defensive work when he ranked him the No. 10 prospect in the Tigers organization.
Arvicent Perez is a great catch-and-throw guy, working on the framing and game-calling aspects of catching and puts everything in play as a hitter.
Not only is Perez an exciting asset behind the dish, he also is an interesting hitter because he almost never strikes out. In today’s environment where strikeouts are becoming more and more common and accepted, most players are motivated to take pitches and work counts, with strikeouts somewhat of an occupational hazard. Perez on the other hand, almost never strikes out.
While it is obvious that numbers in the minor leagues, especially the low minors, do not translate directly to MLB performance, these numbers are encouraging. That is because they show that Perez is not a swing-and-miss kind of player that the Tigers seem to like to have on roster.
Perez is a catcher, which is almost a guarantee that he will not be a good runner. This is the case. The same TigsTown report from earlier gave the nicest description of his running ability possible.
Near bottom of the scale; runs hard but not blessed with speed; shows some feel for getting jumps on pitchers; good reads and can take the occasional extra base; non-factor as a runner but won't hinder team offense; may slow as body reaches physical maturity.
Having zero speed can be made to work (see: Martinez, Victor), but Perez also has very little power in his small frame. He is listed as 5’10 on MLB.com, but only 5’8 on FanGraphs. While being small-bodied can be a benefit to a catcher, making it easier to perform defensive maneuvers, it can also be a liability in multiple ways. Not only does it limit his power, it can also make him less durable than the average ballplayer. The ankle injury he sustained in 2015 is one such example. Limiting him to only 33 games and stunting his development, there is some concern that his ankle was a precursor of future issues.
Perez played well in 2016, hitting a respectable .303/.320/.391, a performance that at first glance may seem to show a newfound ability to make contact. Unfortunately, that might not be the case. A look at his .343 BABIP hints that he may have gotten lucky this season. That figure is somewhat unsustainable for even the fastest of players, let alone a slow catcher, though quality of contact can play a role. Some regression is likely in Perez’s near future.
Perez’s biggest weakness offensively might be his plate discipline. He almost never strikes out, but he doesn’t walk much either. His highest single season walk rate was just five percent, and that was back in 2013 in Rookie ball. His more recent performances in 2015 and 2016 were back-to-back 2.4 percent performances. If he can fix some of these issues or figure out a way around them, he could have a future as a very good backup or as a low-end regular. Don't look down, though, because the floor is dizzyingly low.
Jacob’s Scouting Report
Projected Team: High-A Lakeland Flying Tigers
Despite the fact that some of his offensive success was luck-driven, Perez will likely be pushed harder than he has been in the past. He has more than earned himself a spot on the Lakeland roster with his glove work. His numbers aren’t the only case being made for his promotion, as he has always been old for his level. If he can do well in High-A, he might start to push towards the majors a bit quicker than in the past.