Jhonny Peralta signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old way back in 1999. He made his major-league debut in Cleveland in 2003, spending about seven-and-a-half years there before getting traded to Detroit. Though he spent three full seasons there, it’s the last one that he’ll forever be known for. I speak, of course, of his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013, which led to a 50-game suspension for all involved, including Peralta. He became a free agent after that season, and signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Cardinals, a move that was somewhat controversial at the time. After an all-around solid first year in St. Louis, the shortstop spent the spring going 15th amongst shortstops in fantasy drafts. Here at BP, he was ranked 13th at his position.
What Went Right in 2015
This was yet another typical year for Peralta, which means that he put up boringly solid numbers across the board that culminated in a strong overall performance. He hit .275, the seventh-best mark among all shortstops with at least 400 plate appearances. His 17 home runs ranked fourth in that same group, and he finished 11th in runs, third in RBI, and seven in OBP. There’s no dominant aspect in that performance, but it’s the kind of safe, dependable production you expect when you draft Peralta. Beyond the solid numbers, he made a lot of good contact this year. His line-drive rate was tied with Anthony Rizzo, and his average exit velocity was on par with hitters like Xander Bogaerts, Matt Duffy, and Carlos Gomez. In the end, he was something around a top 10-12 fantasy shortstop, giving solid return value to those who chose to invest in him this past spring.
What Went Wrong in 2015
As always, the spelling of his first name went horribly wrong this year, but that’s happened every year and I’m starting to think it’s an irreversible trend. Otherwise, I suppose one could say that Peralta’s lack of stolen bases is a negative, since shortstop is typically one of the positions where you look for SBs. However, he’s never swiped more than four bags, so if you were expecting more than a handful, that’s on you.
More concerning for Peralta was how much his production fell off in the second half. After hitting .298/.355/.473 in the first half, the 33-year-old hit just .243/.306/.325 after the All-Star break. The good news here is that his peripherals didn’t change too much in that time, with his K% staying roughly the same while his BB% rate dropped one percentage point, down to seven percent. His drop off appears to be largely BABIP-related, although that’s obviously not the same as saying it was bad luck. It’s entirely possible that he lost some of the good contact he had been making early in the year. With that being said, there isn’t too much evidence to be overly worried about this being a trend, rather than him just falling back to Earth after a stellar first half.
One final, minor concern is a change in plate approach from Peralta. Never one to be too aggressive at the plate, he started swinging at significantly more pitches than he had since 2008. To make things more concerning, he saw fewer pitches in the zone than he ever has. It’s a strange trend for an aging player to exhibit, but the good news is that most of his swing-rate increase came on pitches in the zone. If that stays consistent moving forward, it’s not something to be worried about.
What to Expect in 2016
This will change depending on how you feel about his second half, but in this writer’s opinion, you should expect something close to Peralta’s full-season 2015 line next year, with maybe a little bit of a decline considering he’ll be in his age-34 season. At that age, for those playing a premium position, production is never a sure thing, but he’s also not going to cost a lot to acquire. In redraft leagues, look for him to go somewhere in the round-10-15 range again next spring. On teams that have a lot of high-upside players on the roster, someone with that kind of dependability can be a huge asset. Pairing him with a Starlin Castro-type could end up being a solid hedge bet.
The Great Beyond
Obviously, things are a bit bleaker in long-term leagues, and how you view Peralta is entirely based on your current roster. He likely only has a few more years as an everyday player left in him, so if you’re not in a competitive window, this winter is the time to sell. If he has a big postseason for St. Louis, it would behoove players in this situation to use that to their advantage as quickly as possible. However, for those in win-now mode, it’s not easy to find top-10 shortstops, so holding on to Peralts for as long as he continues to be a solid, safe asset is the way to go.
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