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Dissecting the cult of Salvador Perez

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Salvy Perez was the starting catcher for the American League in the All-Star Game, and has a reputation as one of the best all-around backstops in the game. Is he still riding his prospect hype?

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

There were all kinds of hype surrounding Salvador Perez's ascension to the Major Leagues. He was going to be a brilliant defender and a slugger. After just 158 plate appearances and 338.2 defensive innings in the big leagues, the Royals signed Perez to a five year, $7 million dollar contract extension that bought out years of his career in which he would have been eligible for salary arbitration. The deal also includes three club options tacked on at the end that total $12.75 million in value. Even if Perez failed to live up to his amazing promise, the deal would be a remarkable steal if he turned into a useful piece.

Perez is certainly useful to a certain degree. The man just started the All-Star Game after all, right? It's not like there's some sort of easily-manipulated voting system that can thrust anyone into a starting spot. I mean it's not like Omar Infante... wait, my sources are telling me that the All-Star voting system is in fact a total sham. This is not to say that Royals fans voted a bad player into the All-Star Game. Perez isn't bad.

I'm not sure if I would call him "good," either. When I wrote about Perez's inability to take a walk on May 21st, his walk rate was a tepid 2.0%. He had walked three whole times at that point in the season. Since then he walked... twice more. His walk rate now sits at 1.6%. That's not good, to say the least. Perez is known in part for his Pablo Sandoval-esque propensity to swing at pretty much anything. That, along with an unusually low .263 BABIP, has drained his OBP to an unsightly .273. That's sub-Wilmer Flores levels.

The .263 BABIP looks to be attributable to a few things. First and foremost, Perez's hard-hit rate is down to 23.1% after posting a rate of 31.3% last year. He's also pulling the ball with less frequency (39.6% this year, down from 46.4% in 2014). Combine this with a increased propensity for ground balls and a home ballpark that favors pitchers, and you've got yourself some OBP issues. It's not like Perez is a total zero at the plate (batting average above .260, 15 dingers that put him on pace for a career high), but his 98 wRC+ puts him under league average. You'll take a 98 wRC+ from a great defensive catcher.

If only Salvador Perez was a great defensive catcher. Baseball Prospectus posits that Perez has sacrificed 13.9 extra strikes this year, and that's 8th worst mark out of the 85 catchers on the board. He's also had negative value in all their other defensive catching metrics. He has thrown out 35% of attempted base-stealers thus far, which is above his career average.

All in all, Perez has put together a 1.3 fWAR season. That metric doesn't account for his pitch framing ability, which we know to be atrocious. However it doesn't also count for his handling of the pitching staff and game-calling. Harry Pavlidis took a run at creating a game-calling metric at ESPN, and found Perez to be worth 1.2 game-calling wins in 2014 based on his model. The model he used isn't exactly revealed in the article, so we can't fully asses its merits. However, if Perez is indeed this good at calling games, it recoups quite a bit of his value.

In short, Salvador Perez is not nearly as good as he's chalked up to be. However, he's still useful, and that ridiculous contract of his makes him even more of an asset to the Royals. He's not exactly Buster Posey, but he'll do for now. Plus, he'll always have this.

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Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also covers the Yankees and their Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, at Pinstripe Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.