St. Louis Cardinals: What is going on with Delvin Perez

Now four years after being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, Delvin Perez is fighting to stay relevant. How’d his 2019 season go?

In the last five years, I don’t think there’s been one player that’s been regarded as more of a steal in the MLB Draft for the St. Louis Cardinals than Delvin Perez. Drafted back in 2016, 10 picks ahead of current #1 prospect, Dylan Carlson, at 23rd overall, everyone was excited that the shortstop fell to the Cardinals.

A consensus top-10 pick before the draft, teams were scared away when a positive PED test came out just before the draft. Where other teams were scared away, the Cardinals jumped on the opportunity to give the then-17-year-old Perez a chance.

At the time of the draft, the general scouting report on Perez was that his defense was about MLB ready at shortstop, he had speed and contact, but very little power in his wiry frame.

Perez came out of the gate after the draft and hit .294/.352/.393 in 43 games and immediately found himself in the 80s of the MLB’s top 100 prospect list. Huge win right?

Since that 2016 season of success, Perez has basically faceplanted.

Excluding 2016 and 2019, Perez’s slugging percentage and OPS in 2017 and 2018 was .271/.585 and .272/.573. His batting average in both of those years was below .220 and in 1000+ minor league at-bats, Perez has hit two homers and 32 doubles. He’s stolen 47 bases and hit 13 triples, but there’s not a pretty way to slice it.

Before the 2019 season, Perez was right on the edge of falling into the prospect abyss where his career aspirations would lie forever. BUT, I left 2019’s numbers out for a reason. Perez finally made strides forward.

Perez’s .269/.329/.325 slash line at Low-A Peoria in 2019 may not have been multiple strides forward, but it was at least stride. Perez played in 118 games and stole 22 bases with 17 doubles and three triples.

While the surface stats say Perez took a step forward, a 3% jump in strikeout percentage and his walk rate was cut in half to 5% paired with a .359 BABIP doesn’t look great. To counter that, you can look at his line drive rate that almost returned to Perez’s 2016 levels. So he was probably getting a bit lucky, but he was hitting more liners which is always good.

In an odd turn, his defense struggled too and that’s something he needs to turn around again, but the important thing for Perez is that he showed a pulse at the plate. The problem with Perez is just that he’s still never added much muscle to his frame.

Now 21 years old, the Cardinals are going to need to see even more out of Perez at the plate and in the field. While 2019 may have been a fluke, if Perez wants to stay on the team’s radar, they need him to keep improving in 2020.

Perez is a really good example of the volatility of prospects and how the MLB Draft is a roll of the dice. Perez was the best shortstop in the 2016 draft and now he may have the ceiling of a utility infielder.

The 2016 draft netted the Cardinals Dakota Hudson and Carlson (all in the first round) which offsets the bust that Perez was, but given that he was the top pick, it still stings a little bit.

Next: Left-handed options for the bench

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Perez could break out in 2020, but in all reality, unless he gains weight he won’t hit for much power. He’s still young enough where the MLB could still be in his future, but there’s going to have to be a lot of progress for that to still be a possibility.

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