St. Louis Cardinals: Jhonny Peralta a stabilizing force

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Since his free-agency signing in 2014, St. Louis Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta has been an elite talent amongst Major League shortstops

From the start of the 2006 World Series season through the end of 2013, Cardinal shortstops hit a combined 46 home runs. In two seasons of work with St. Louis, Jhonny Peralta has hit 38.

In 2014 and 2015, Peralta had 75 and 71 runs batted in, respectively. The last Cardinal shortstop to drive in more than 70 runs in a season was Edgar Renteria back in 2004.

Peralta led all Major League shortstops in Slugging Percentage (.427) and Walks (108) over that time period. He ranked no lower than third in HR, Doubles, RBI, and OBP as well.

Peralta’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to FanGraphs, over the past two seasons was 7.0. Only Brandon Crawford had a higher WAR (7.7) over that time period amongst MLB shortstops. Peralta’s 5.3 WAR in 2014 was tops amongst shortstops in that given year.

I can keep pulling numbers like this all day, but I think you get the point I am trying to make. Jhonny Peralta is certainly the most formidable Cardinal shortstop, from an offensive standpoint, in quite some time. He very well could be the best ever.

Jul 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta hits a two run home run in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 8, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta hits a two run home run in the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

And who’s going to forget the top of the 9th two-out, two-strike go ahead bomb off of Pedro Strop and the Cubbies back in July? That swing was arguably the highlight moment of the 2015 Cardinals campaign.

But… what about defense? If there was one concern about Peralta coming in to St. Louis, it had to be whether or not he had enough range to cover the shortstop position.

After all, 6’2, 215 lbs (and that 215 seems a bit light to me) is a build more fitting to a corner infield position. However, Peralta is surprisingly good up the middle, and he can handle his fair share of plays to the backhand as well.

At the same time, Peralta has been remarkably sure-handed on virtually every ball that he has gotten to. Over 1,206 total chances as a Cardinal, Peralta has committed just 20 errors. That’s good for a .983 fielding percentage, which ranks fourth among Major League Baseball shortstops, just behind Jimmy Rollins (.985), JJ Hardy (.985), and Jordy Mercer (.984).

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So not only is there very legitimate statistical evidence for Peralta being a top five offensive shortstop (which most of you probably already knew), but also data that shows that he is worthy of consideration as a top ten, if not a top five defensive shortstop as well.

What should we expect from Peralta in 2016, might you ask? I would say to expect anywhere in the 15-20 home run range as realistic, with Peralta having the potential to top out somewhere around 25. Again, that 70-80 RBI range is a fair expectation.

Defensively, if Peralta is able to hold that Fielding Percentage near .985 and show us that he hasn’t lost a step to either hole over the off-season, Cardinal fans should be ecstatic.

Next: Are the Cardinals really content with their 2016 team?

If we want to get a little greedy, I would love to see Peralta push his slash numbers up into the .300/.360/.460 area. Peralta has hit each of those figures during his career, albeit never all at the same time. If he is able to reach any of those numbers in 2016, Cardinal fans will most certainly have had the privilege of witnessing an elite-level shortstop once again.

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