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Selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, shortstop Delvin Perez just wrapped his second professional season in 2017, splitting it between two rookie levels: the Gulf Coast League‘s GCL Cardinals, and the Appalachian League‘s Johnson City Cardinals. In 34 total games split between those two affiliates, Perez slashed .203/.314/.271/.585 over 118 at-bats, with two doubles, three triples, five stolen bases, 17 walks, and 24 strikeouts. Set to turn 19 next month (DOB: November 24, 1998), Perez seems a solid bet to head back to short-season ball at one of the club’s rookie-level affiliates again in 2018, where he’ll need to prove he can make wholesale adjustments at the plate before he’s ready to face full-season pitching.

That said, Delvin Perez is arguably one of the best middle infield defenders I saw at any level across the entirety of the 2017 season, with good foot speed and anticipation, quick footwork, soft hands, a reliable glove at shortstop, and more than enough arm strength to stick at the position long term. Still a teenager, and listed at 6’3″, 175 lbs. (in reality, Perez almost certainly weighs fifteen or twenty pounds less than that), there’s ample room and time for significant growth here for the St. Louis Cardinals prospect. Below, you’ll find our full Delvin Perez scouting report from watching him during the summer, including game video, tool grades, projection notes, and more.

Delvin Perez, St. Louis Cardinals — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: July 24-25

Hit (40)
Swing mechanics are a mess right now, and he’s maybe the most raw offensive project I’ve seen out of any frontline prospect over the last few seasons. Leaks out routinely on his front foot, sacrificing the (very little) power and leverage he possesses. Slow bat speed with modest to occasionally severe bat wrap. Very poor pitch recognition; susceptible to anything soft and breaking away from him; struggles to hold off. Struggles to adjust how he’s being pitched at-bat to at-bat, and lacks full plate coverage on the outer half, especially down and away. Tendency to lose what little lower-half leverage he has by getting too rotational through his swing, contributing to consistent weak contact. A 40 FV typically represents something around a .240 big league hitter; I’m not overly sure Delvin Perez will ever consistently eclipse that mark, but I’ll acknowledge there is still ample physical and mental development to come for the 18-year-old. Perhaps he’ll (modestly) over-achieve with the bat.

Power (25)
Absolutely no power to speak of right now, and very little indication he’ll ever hit for any power barring a few gap doubles here and there that are aided by his foot speed as much as his bat. Leaks out on front side too often and sacrifices whatever little power he has; gets very rotational through swing and is left muscling through power — with virtually no muscle to speak of — and below-average bat speed. More than any player I saw this year, Delvin Perez needs to grow. He’s significantly lighter than his list weight of 175, and a few more years of natural physical development will do wonders in allowing the smallest bit of (inconsistent) power to peek through. Even with that, he won’t come close to below-average raw power. Based on my in-person looks alone I believe I could have legitimately slapped 20 FV power on him, but I’ll be slightly optimistic here, too, and bump him to 25, if only to acknowledge just as with the hit tool that Perez still has considerable development to come.

Glove (65)
Exceptional range at shortstop, aided by very, very good anticipation off the bat and easy lateral quickness to both sides. As lost as he looks at the plate, Perez flips into veteran mode in the field, and plays like he can cover the entire left side of the infield himself. Soft, sure glove both to his forehand side and backhand; loves to range deep into the hole and make plays there, and he has the arm to do it (more on that below). Good balance and athleticism running in hard on choppers and dribblers. Situational awareness in the field is fine at present, and will continue to develop as he ages. Advanced feel for running back into the outfield on pop flies; will assert himself as vocal infield captain in situations like that. Barring something completely unforeseen, almost certainly a lock to stay at shortstop for the rest of his career. Easy to see him as an Andrelton Simmons type of defender… but with less of an offensive profile.

Arm (65)
Arguably a double-plus arm from shortstop; both accurate and strong from anywhere on the left side of the infield, including deep in the hole and off his back foot. Quick release with very good carry to first base; feel for above-average accuracy already, especially relative to his age and level. Good feel for consistent throwing mechanics. Typically stays on top of the ball and doesn’t get lackadaisical in letting his elbow drop. That said, Perez will fall into the same trap as so many young guys with good arms: he has arm strength and he knows it, and he’ll show off with ill-advised throws in untimely situations. Simply playing more baseball and continuing to mature will cure this, of course; he’s not afraid to take chances at shortstop, and he will inevitably learn how to channel that for good more than bad.

Speed (60)
Had him consistently 4.24 - 4.28 out of RHH batter’s box to first base; bumped him up to an even 60-grade on account of exceptional anticipation, reads, lateral quickness, and footwork on defense. Could become a modest stolen base threat on offense, but has significant work to do in learning how to read pitchers and anticipate situations. Good, quick first step out of the box with balance, easy access to top speed down the line once he gets going. He’ll find his run times improve as he refines his running mechanics and grows into his body. Speed best manifests itself in the field; Perez loves to run in on dribblers and choppers, and also shows a quick drop step to chase down shallow pop flies in left-center field.

Physical and mental growth will both come with age; will develop maturity and leadership on the field simply by virtue of his advanced feel for a premium position. Vocally asserts himself well there already. Had a PED issue pre-draft, but put his head down and played through it. Seems to be past off-field questions now. Plays with a swagger on defense; knows he can field anything hit his way, and he likes to show it off. Of course, that translates to some flashy, ill-advised plays, but with age, he’ll learn how to pick his spots. He’s the type of guy who needs innings; there’s no question he has the feel to work out (minor) defensive shortcomings through game experience. Far, far more of a work in progress offensively; because of that, there’s a considerable risk in his profile: will Delvin Perez become an everyday premier shortstop who could win a Gold Glove or two, or is his bat such a black hole that it’ll derail him from establishing an everyday gig with the St. Louis Cardinals?

Delvin Perez Scouting Report — 2017 Game Video

Delvin Perez Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Simply put, it’ll be fascinating to follow Delvin Perez over the next few years. I struggle to think of anyone I saw in 2017 more polar-opposite in his offensive profile being so far behind his defensive talent. Along with Rockies infield prospect Garrett Hampson, Perez is by far the most naturally talented catch-and-throw prospect I saw over a few hundred games this year — and, yet, the rookie ball shortstop is also arguably the worst frontline prospect I observed bat in that same span. That’s a hell of a one-two combo.

Ultimately, his long-term projection is likely to be found somewhere in between the two extremes of defensive superhero and offensive black hole… though maybe not by much. In all likelihood, Delvin Perez will be nearly big league ready at shortstop next year, even though he’s never going to amount to very much on offense. What do the St. Louis Cardinals do with that? Perez plays a premium position with ample value even if he never hits, but it’ll be interesting to see how they construct a lineup around him as he begins to reach the big league radar. They’re not the first team to deal with a problem like this, of course, but Perez’s ascension will make things interesting in St. Louis a few years from now.

Delvin Perez Scouting Report — Future Projection

I’m interested to see where Delvin Perez ends up next summer. Most of me assumes he’ll re-do rookie ball again, perhaps full-time in Johnson City this time, but a small part wouldn’t be surprised if the St. Louis Cardinals test him at Low-A, if only to continue his path against better opponents while perhaps realizing that, hey, his bat may never really come around. Perez is still very young, so there’s no reason to rush him, but his defensive profile is so exceptional that the Cardinals might be tempted to push a bit, and I couldn’t say I’d blame them if they did. As I mentioned, an Andrelton Simmons comp is a best-case scenario (and may even be over-shooting quite a bit offensively), but there’s considerable risk here and a non-zero chance Perez flames out in the upper minors or settles in as an up-and-down defensive specialist with the St. Louis Cardinals if he can’t figure it out at the plate.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Ceiling as first-division everyday regular as an elite defender at the bottom of the lineup. High risk; possibility to fall into up-and-down/bench depth role without wholesale improvements at the plate (45/50)

MLB ETA: 2021


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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census, the author of We Is Blaze, (obviously) a fan of minor league baseball, and an unlikely expert on the animated classic TV show King Of The Hill. For more on Bobby and the personal, human side of this site, follow him on Twitter and Facebook: @BobbyDeMuro.

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