By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Minors): 71 G, 288 AB, .281 BA, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 10 SB, .708 OPS
2016 season (Majors): 72 G, 241 AB, .324 BA, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 21 SB, .762 OPS
Brandon Phillips was a cornerstone at second base in Cincinnati for a decade, so when the Reds traded him to the Atlanta Braves in February it showed that the team is confident it has a replacement in Jose Peraza.
Originally signed by the Braves as an international free agent in 2010, Peraza debuted in Rookie ball as an 18-year-old in ‘12 and made his way onto multiple top prospect rankings after a breakout ‘14 season. While he had already showcased his incredible speed with 117 stolen bases in parts of three seasons before he turned 20 years old, Peraza managed to raise his average and cut down on strikeouts, finishing with a .339/.364/.441 line that year.
Entering the ‘15 season, Peraza had hit the map, beginning the year as the No. 38 ranked prospect by MLB.com and No. 54 by Baseball America. In the midst of a nice first Triple-A season, Atlanta sent Peraza to the Dodgers in a three-team blockbuster trade. He played well in 22 games for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate before making his Major League debut with Los Angeles in August. He was sent up and down a few times and played in just seven games, contributing three steals.
That December, Peraza was involved in another major trade — the Todd Frazier deal that sent Frazier to the Chicago White Sox and landed Peraza in Cincinnati. Peraza had a good first Spring Training with the Reds, began the year in the Minors and was called up for the first time on May 13. He went back and forth for much of the year and ended up almost playing the same amount of games for both the Reds and the Louisville Bats. Oddly enough, Peraza’s numbers were better in 72 games with the Reds than they were in 71 games with the Bats.
In 611 career games between the Minors and Majors, Peraza has stolen a ridiculous 244 bases with a .301/.341/.387 line. The middle infielder doesn’t supply nearly any power, and his output may be low relative to other infielders in the league, but what he does do — hit for average and steal bases — he does very well.
While Peraza has spent much of his career at shortstop (with some time in the outfield), the Reds traded Phillips to make room for Peraza as their new starting second baseman, and manager Bryan Price has already come out and named Peraza as such. There isn’t much doubt that he can transition to second full-time, and his versatility will also come in handy whenever the Reds need to spell an outfielder.
Peraza has never struggled to make contact at any level and his elite speed has never wavered. Depth Charts projections have him with 31 steals (eighth highest projection in MLB) and a .281 average in 142 games, while ZiPS projects 29 and .279 in 143. With a likely spot atop the Reds’ lineup and a regular starting gig, Peraza could challenge teammate Billy Hamilton for the stolen-base crown while the two drive opposing pitchers mad with their antics on the bases.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.