Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Top 15 Hitters: #4 Fernando Perez

Fernando PerezFernando Perez
6’1’’ 195 lbs 04/23/1983
2008: Durham/Tampa Bay
Acquired: 2004 Draft, Round 7

The quintessential speedy outfielder, Fernando Perez has been climbing the organizational ladder since he was drafted out of Columbia University in 2004. The Rays’ 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, Perez made his mark with the big league club by scoring the winning run in extra innings in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Perez shot up organizational depth charts after his stellar showing with Montgomery in 2007 where he hit .308/.419/.478. After making the jump to AAA Durham in 2008 he had another excellent year (.286/.356/.387), which earned him a September callup and a spot on the Rays postseason roster. A natural righty, Perez began switch hitting in 2006 but still needs significant work on hitting from the left side. Against right handed pitching Fernando posted an OPS of just .705(.818 against lefties) in 2008 and his ground ball rate from the left side of the plate was an incredible 71.6%. Perez does show good pop when batting right handed though.

Ground balls are not necessarily a bad thing for Perez. His elite speed allows him to leg out many infield hits. Despite 80 raw speed Perez’s caught stealing rates were 36% and 22% in 2007 and 2008 respectively. His success rate should increase as he gains more experience at the upper levels though. Defensively he uses his speed well, resulting in plus range in centerfield. An average arm makes him above average overall defensively. Perez also has excellent plate discipline and has never posted a walk rate lower than 10% at any level since being drafted. Strikeouts are a concern though as he struck out 26.9% of the time while with Durham.

Due to B.J. Upton’s offseason shoulder surgery, there is a good chance that Perez will be Tampa’s 2009 opening day starter in centerfield. Once Upton is healthy Perez will likely find himself as part of a rightfield platoon and pinch runner or back in AAA Durham to continue work on batting left handed.

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