Mar 6, 2014; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals center fielderEury Perez
(3) dives to try and make a catch in the sixth inning as the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit:David Manning
-USA TODAY Sports
With an outfield flanked by Carlos Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki, aging veterans struggling to produce, the Yankees have elected to give an inexperienced youngster a shot to contribute. On Monday, they claimed 24 year old outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from Washington, designating right-hander Josh Outman for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster.
Perez, who was designated for assignment by the Nationals on Thursday, appeared in the majors briefly for Washington in 2012 and 2013, but never really got off the ground. He collected just two singles in 13 career at bats, appearing primarily as a pinch runner and late inning defensive replacement.
However, his old scouting reports and minor league numbers indicate there’s potential for a greater contributions. A career .305 hitter across five minor league seasons, Perez slashed .311/.372/.406 in 238 plate appearances for Triple-A syracuse this season. He also stole 20 bases, despite only appearing in 57 games. That’s nothing new. From 2010-2012, he swiped 45+ bags each year, peaking with 64 in 2010. Ranking him among the Nationals top 30 prospects each of the last five seasons, Baseball America noted that several scout rated his speed as an elusive 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Speed invariably leads to range and Perez, who Minor League Ball’s John Sickels notes has greatly improved his fly ball routes in recent years, is a plus defender at all three outfield positions. That could serve the Yankees well if they continue to use Beltran in the outfield. The former gold glover has been slowed by age and injury and is now a liability at any spot other than DH. Perez could spell him late in games, where the rookie could team with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner to form one of the best defensive outfields in baseball.
Whether or not Perez can ever serve in anything more than a reserve role will ultimately come down to whether or not he can shore up the two weakest facets of his game: power and patience. The Dominican native hit just 1 home run combined between 2011 and 2012. His career professional walk rate is just 5.8% (MLB average is 7.8%).
At least he’s starting to show improvement in his power. Last year, he hit 7 home runs for Syracuse, nearly doubling his career total despite playing in less than 100 games. The same can not be said for his plate discipline. He drew a free pass in just 5.4% of plate appearances this season, 13 base on balls.
Even so, his raw talent and athleticism give the middling Yankees farm system some upside without costing New York a single player or penny. If those two categories never truly develop, he could still produce as a slap-hitting, quick and defensive-minded fourth or fifth outfielder. Think Endy Chavez circa 2006.