If there's something strange behind home plate, who you gonna call? Not the Ghostbusters, because Dan Aykroyd has a terrible eye at the plate and Bill Murray has already committed to his basketball career on Moron Mountain. Instead, if you are the Cleveland Indians, you call Roberto Perez.
Call Roberto Perez is exactly what they Tribe did in 2015 when starting catcher Yan Gomes went down with a sprained MCL early in the season. Perez did not make everyone suddenly forget about Gomes and his Silver Slugger award, but he did more than an adequate job of filling in. Unfortunately for him, he just happened to do most of his filling in when the Tribe offense was struggling the most and he did not help much.
For a month after Perez came in to replace the injured Gomes, he certainly looked like a career backup catcher. He hit for a dismal .176/.290/.373 slash while striking out 32.8% of the time. That awful first month shaped a lot of people’s perception of Perez, which is really a shame because he was a solid backup for the rest of the year once Yan came back and he was needed sporadically.
My personal favorite Roberto Perez moment of 2015 came early on in the season, during an April 18 loss to the Minnesota Twins, when he was doing his best Kenny Lofton impression while rounding the bases. Perez essentially scored a run entirely on his own with intelligent base-running and I liked it so much that it happened to be my first FanPost.
As the season progressed and Gomes got healthier (and hit better), Perez was called upon less. However, he was still getting into games once or twice a week and getting on base when he needed to; including a five-game streak in early August and a trio of multi-hit games spread throughout September.
Looking at his season starting after that first month, Perez slashed .248/.371/.414 (121 wRC+), lowered his k-rate to 26.5% and walked 14.8% of the time in 162 plate appearances. Even his season as a whole, including that poor first month, was not bad for a backup catcher. Heck, if he could manage to keep up his .228/.348/.402 slash over a full season’s worth of work, he would be one of the better-hitting catchers in the league.
Here is where Roberto’s season ranked among American League backstops with at least 200 plate appearances:
- .348 OBP (1st)
- .402 SLG (11th)
- 14.6% BB% (2nd)
- 110 wRC+ (3rd)
- 1.7 fWAR (5th)
Keeping in mind that his fWAR is over only 226 plate appearances--while the leaders had well over 500 each--that is an impressive ranking for a second-year player who only appeared in 29 games last year. Yes, if he played a full season he may have had more cold streaks that dragged his numbers down a bit, but for what it was, it was a great season.
Perez has always had a good eye at the plate throughout his four years in the Cleveland Indians organization, so it is not crazy to think he could have a high on-base percentage throughout his career. I doubt he will always get on at a .348 clip, but he could be easily be in the top half of catchers in terms of OBP if he is ever given consistent playing time.
As long as Yan Gomes still has a functioning arm and two working eyes, I doubt Perez will be starting in Cleveland, but he provides solid depth to a position that a lot of teams wish they could have.