Jupiter, Florida —— Entering play on Friday night, St. Louis Cardinals middle infield prospect Delvin Perez is slashing .191/.295/.270/.565 across the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals and the Appalachian League‘s Johnson City Cardinals, with a double, three triples, no homers, 12 walks, and 20 strikeouts over 89 at-bats in his first 25 games in 2017. I observed the 18-year-old Puerto Rican in his July 25 game in the Gulf Coast League, one day before he was promoted back to Johnson City; below is Baseball Census‘ full Delvin Perez scouting report, including video.
Delvin Perez Scouting Report — Video
Our video of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop prospect Delvin Perez shows five total at-bats in a July 25 outing against the Gulf Coast League Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida:
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Delvin Perez Scouting Report — Notes
First, the good: defensively, Delvin Perez is as advanced as they come for his age and level. The infielder has phenomenal natural feel for shortstop, with good range already and a very strong and accurate arm. He’s flashy at the position with the soft hands to match, but he’s impressively consistent at fielding his position and making the routine plays there, too—a welcome trait to have at the wildly-inconsistent rookie ball level. The St. Louis Cardinals shortstop will grow into his body, as he’s almost unimaginably long and lanky right now; listed at 6’3″, 175 lbs., I think he’s slightly shorter than that and about 20 pounds lighter. But that’ll come in time, and as it does, he’s perfectly equipped to remain at shortstop thanks to his impressive natural tools. He should one day become a plus defender at the position, and it’s not a stretch for me to say that even as young as he is, Delvin Perez is arguably the second-best defensive shortstop I’ve seen in 2017 behind New York Mets prospect Amed Rosario.
Now, the bad: as good as his defensive work may be, Delvin Perez is a long, long way off with the bat. He struggles to get his body in sync at the plate, and timing was a nightmare for him in the action I saw this week. It’s clear his pitch recognition is poor right now, and Perez is particularly susceptible to off-speed pitches down and away as he struggles to see them and can’t hold back from swinging before he realizes what they are. Even when he gets his pitch in the hittable part of the zone, his exceptionally thin frame struggles to produce enough leverage to hit the ball with authority. He’s limited in hitting for any type of power—at least until he substantially fills out with age; this swing is a case in point; that’s a middle-middle hanging breaking ball that Perez got all of and only hit into mid-left field.
While he’s mature and in control on the field, Perez shows his age a bit at the plate, and he can wear his emotions on his sleeve too much as he struggles through non-competitive at-bats. That’s to be expected a little bit, perhaps, but it’ll be another thing to correct with further development and maturity. Right now, he’s about as defense-first-no-hit as they come in the middle infield, but the potential value of his defensive work is already so plainly obvious that there’s no question he’s deserving of prospect status. Before too long, as he moves up to full-season ball and more prospect notoriety, he’ll firmly plant himself as one of the top young defenders in the game. Can the bat follow, too, and really turn him into a frontline young talent?
Delvin Perez Scouting Report — Projection
I’ve said before how much I dislike projecting out rookie-league guys who are still 18 years old (I’d be a bad amateur scout, I think), and Delvin Perez is another case of a difficult projection because he’s just so damn young and raw. Look, there’s no question his glove will eventually play in the big leagues. I’d need to see more of him, but from what I saw this week in Florida, his glove is good enough for the upper minors with the St. Louis Cardinals right now, and he’s mature enough on defense to make the routine plays while physical enough to show off some range and a very strong arm. Just like Rosario, and Texas Rangers shortstop Michael De Leon, Perez is exceptionally advanced at shortstop and could handle the rigors of Triple-A at the position literally today.
To that end, then, Delvin Perez will end up going as far as his bat can take him. Because he’s so athletic, I struggle to think he’ll hit .190 several years from now; if he does, he’s a fringy utility man moving forward who can play great defense but will provide little to no value anywhere else. He should improve significantly at the plate, though, and when he does it’ll vault him into a far more valuable everyday shortstop role down the line. I’m not bullish he’ll ever hit for power, but if he can prove to be a modest contact hitter with some gap-to-gap pop and the speed to exploit it, Delvin Perez is most likely an everyday shortstop of the future for the St. Louis Cardinals with modest offensive value in his game. Thankfully, he’s got plenty of time to get to that point.