David Peralta has had one of the most fascinating careers of any regular in baseball. He was signed as an international amateur—and a pitcher—by the Cardinals back in 2004. Things didn’t go very well for him over the next few years, as his time in the low minors were marred by poor performance and shoulder injuries. Eventually, St. Louis decided to move on and he became a minor-league free agent in 2009. No other clubs were interested, so he moved on to independent league ball and converted to the outfield. He bounced from league to league over the next few years, but hit everywhere he went and the Diamondbacks were impressed enough to bring him into their organization in the middle of the 2013 season. Peralta raked across two levels over the next 12 months and was called up to the bigs midway through the 2014 season. His first exposure to the majors went well, and he cemented a full-time role for himself heading into the 2015 season.
What Went Right in 2015
Heading into the year, Peralta was mostly an afterthought in fantasy leagues, being drafted as the 117th outfielder according to Fantasy Pros. To say he outperformed those expectations would be an understatement of epic proportions. The bulk of his production came on the back of a strong AVG and OBP, which finished at .312 and .371, respectively. However, his power production was nothing to sneeze at either. While his 17 home runs don’t jump off the page, it’s still a respectable number. He was much more of a help in total bases leagues, though, finishing the year 61st in that category thanks to his 26 doubles and league-leading 10 triples.
As I said, though, he was a huge part of most fantasy lineups because of his ability to get hits. Predictably, some of this is thanks to a .368 BABIP. But while Peralta can partially thank good fortune for that mark, he had just as big a hand in it as well. Ever since he signed on with the Diamondbacks organization, he’s put up high BABIPs at every level. This isn’t a fluke, as Peralta’s swing results in a lot of line drives and a lot of hard contact. Of course, this is reflected in his big extra-base hit numbers. While there isn’t a great single stat to verify what the eye test shows us about hard contact, all of the quick checks come out in his favor. To wit, he finished with the 23rd-highest average exit velocity among the 345 batters who put at least 100 balls in play last season. Furthermore, he finished with the 39th-highest line-drive percentage among the 311 players with at least 250 plate appearances. He also finished with an above-average HR:FB ratio and one of the lowest popup percentages in the league. Even conceding some good fortune in his high BABIP, Peralta more than proved he earned the majority of his hits and is a legitimate high-AVG, high-OBP player.
Tying in with all of this is the fact that the lefty was an absolute monster against right-handed pitchers. While he played in 149 games and received 517 plate appearances—making him far from a platoon bat—he was much better against opposite-handed pitchers. His .936 OPS against righties was the 11th best mark of any hitter in the league with at least 250 plate appearances against RHP. Luckily for Peralta and fantasy owners, the majority of pitchers in the league throw from the right side.
What Went Wrong in 2015
The flip side of that last positive, of course, is that he struggled against left-handed pitching. When a southpaw was on the mound, Peralta watched his walk rate fall well below the league average, his strikeout rate balloon over 25 percent, and his power all but disappear. As strong as his overall game is, he’s almost unplayable when a lefty is starting for his opponent, meaning you need to burn a bench spot on another outfielder who can replace him in your lineup on these days. It’s not the end of the world, of course, but it’s one thing keeping him from getting to the next level.
The only other quibble one can find with his 2015 is that he was merely good, rather than great, in all non-AVG categories. Specifically, he didn’t contribute a ton in runs scored or RBI. The latter shouldn’t be much of an issue this year, with A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt hitting in front of him. As long as Peralta continues to hit his doubles and triples, he’ll knock in plenty of runs. However, Arizona’s lineup behind him is cobbled together with below-average hitters, so expect him to be stranded on base plenty of times this year. It’s not enough to avoid him, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
What to Expect in 2016
As we head towards the new year and rankings season looms around the corner, Peralta is one of the players I am most fascinated to watch. It’s my expectation that his value will vary wildly from source to source due to his relative lack of track record combined with his relative lack of failure. I’d expect a similar season to last year, with a slightly lower AVG and OBP but a little more power, runs and RBI production. The good news for proponents of his is that he’s likely to be somewhat overshadowed by a pair of first-rounders on his own team. He’s certainly not close to that value, but I see him as a top-40 OF in 2016. Early rankings have him closer to the 50-60 range, so he should be a strong value once again in next spring’s drafts.
The Great Beyond
Entering his age-28 season, Peralta is firmly in his prime and is on a team that is poised to contend for at least the next few seasons. Goldschmidt and Pollock should be around him for a long time, giving him plenty of lineup help for the foreseeable future. Unless he can turn those extra base hits into homers, he’ll never be an elite fantasy option. However, he’s in a good position to be a solid, undervalued asset for the next few years. He's not quite young enough to be an asset to rebuilding dynasty teams, but for those who have a window open for the next few years, now would be the time to attempt to acquire him on the cheap.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now