St. Louis Cardinals: Jhonny Peralta Enters 2017 Season As Starting Third Baseman
Entering his contract year with the St. Louis Cardinals, Jhonny Peralta was confirmed the team’s primary third baseman to start the season.
According to multiple sources, including St. Louis Cardinals beat writer Jenifer Langosch (see tweet below), Jhonny Peralta is expected to handle the lion’s share of third base for the 2017 season when healthy and producing to expectations.
Coming into Spring Training, there was some speculation that Peralta could be in a platoon with Jedd Gyorko. Whether Peralta’s performance or Gyorko’s strong finish last season prompted this, the Cardinals now have an approach at the hot corner to build around for the upcoming season.
In 2016, Peralta finished with an offensive slash line of .260/.307/.408, his lowest through three years with the Cardinals. But his production improved in the chase for a barely-missed playoff berth, as he collected a .289 batting average, a pair of home runs and a dozen runs scored in September and October contests.
Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million deal in the 2013-14 offseason, intending to man shortstop for the first few years. But combined with the rookie emergence of Aledmys Diaz and the gradual transition to first base for Matt Carpenter last year, it was made more opportune for Peralta to play at a position he last regularly guarded for the Detroit Tigers in 2013.
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Last year, Peralta brought a consistent presence at third base with a .980 fielding percentage, four errors and a 2.57 range factor. These totals would yield for the best overall fielding peripherals for a St. Louis Cardinals third baseman full season since Scott Rolen earned four gold gloves honing the birds on the bat.
For now, Jedd Gyorko receives the short end of this arrangement. But it’s one that will allow him to embrace a more coveted team role as a utility infielder. Gyorko played at least ten games at all of the infield positions last year, which was a factor in acquiring him for Jon Jay before the 2016 season.
However, Gyorko should still receive ample playing time if his hitting abilities result in similar offensive production from last year. He became one of the team’s hottest hitters post-All-Star break with thirty-eight RBIs and a .547 slugging percentage en route to his only thrity-home run season to date.
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With the regular season less than a week away, Peralta is expected to begin the campaign as the oldest starting position player. Regardless if Peralta or Gyorko earns the majority of starts at third base later into the year, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a strong position with the flexibility to start either at the hot corner.