For a nondescript 13th round draft pick from Western Oklahoma State JC—is that even a real school?—Juan Perez is surprisingly tooled up. On Monday night, I timed him at 3.9 from home to first out of the right-handed batter’s box on an infield hit. Giants play-by-play man Mike Krukow had him at 3.8. Either way, that’s elite speed for a right-handed hitter.
Perez uses his speed to tremendous effect in the outfield. Perez has started only six games in center field for the Giants, but he’s gotten to seemingly every ball hit his way.
According to the advanced metric Defensive Runs Saved, Perez has already saved six runs with his glove.
He leads all Giants outfielders with four assists. His arm is well-above average, particularly for a center fielder.
He can run, he can catch the ball and he can throw. Three of the five tools grade out as plus for Perez. Unfortunately, a good throwing arm and blazing speed aren’t as important as the ability to hit. Buster Posey is as slow as the day is long. He was the NL MVP last year. Barry Bonds had a wet noodle for an arm. He’s the greatest player ever. Not all of the five tools are created equally, even though they’re weighted equally on scouting reports. That seems like a gigantic inefficiency.
If Perez could hit, he’d be incredibly value. As a 22-year old in the Sally League, Perez hit just .244/.283/.383. The following year, he hit a much more respectable .298/.337/.472 with 60 extra-base hits in the California League. He backtracked to .256/.303/.381 against Double-A competition and was forced to repeat the level last year. His second go-round was better, as he hit .302/.341/.441 with 11 home runs and was tabbed by scouts as a better defender than top prospect Gary Brown. Perez was hitting .296/.331/.507 at Triple-A Fresno when the Giants gave him the call.
He’s already 26 years old, so he isn’t really a prospect. He’s never walked in even 6 percent of his plate appearances in the minor leagues and his lowest strikeout rate was 16.6 percent in a repeat year at Double-A. He doesn’t have much patience and he’ll strikeout a bit. His power looks to be of the gap variety. In 25 plate appearances with the Giants, he has eight hits—all of them singles. He hasn’t walked yet and he’s struck out four times. His approach has been to beat the ball into the ground and run like hell.
He has elite speed out of the box, but he went just 18-for-33 on stolen base attempts last year. He never figured out how to turn his speed into a base-stealing weapon down on the farm. He isn’t likely to learn how to steal bases, walk and hit in the big leagues.
Juan Perez has been a needed shot in the arm for the Giants. With his speed, range and arm, he looks like a regular. But with his bat, lack of patience and power, and inability to steal bases with his speed, he’s just a fourth outfielder.
When Angel Pagan returns, the Giants will have three speedy fourth outfielders on the roster in Perez, Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco. Somehow, Bruce Bochy will have to cobble that together in left field to get enough production the rest of the way.
Juan Perez Scouting Report (20-80):