Roberto Perez has played in six games for the Cleveland Indians' Arizona Summer League team in the last nine days. He's gone 3 for 9, and has also drawn five walks, continuing a trend that was on display at the start of this season, before he landed on the DL with an injury to his right thumb that required surgery: In his 15 plate appearances with the Indians before the injury, he walked six times.
When the Indians start back up on Friday, following the All-Star break, Roberto Perez should be their starting catcher.
Author's note: A day after writing this, I see Perez won't be ready to rejoin the team on Friday (closer to two weeks, he says), so while I stand by the basic point of this post, which is that the Indians need to try out a change, the timeframe will need to be pushed back a bit. In the meantime, Yan is free to start hitting the bejesus out of the ball in order to force me to reconsider my stance.
Both his recent play in Arizona and his earlier play with the Tribe this year are minuscule samples, so I can understand if you think I'm putting too much stock into his 2016 numbers, but my belief that Roberto Perez should be the Indians' primary catcher for at least the time being doesn't actually have that much to do with Roberto Perez, instead I'm just looking to get Yan Gomes out of that role, because Yan Gomes has become almost complete dead weight on offense, and that sample is no longer small.
Gomes is presently batting .166/.201/.315 this season, in 254 plate appearances, with a wRC+ of 31. Among the 192 players with 250+ plate appearances so far this season, Gomes' batting average, on-base percentage, and wRC+ all rank last. In short, he's been the worst hitter in MLB this year.
Just focusing on how he compares to other players this year somewhat undersells how bad his batting line is: Gomes' .166 batting average would be the worst in franchise history among players with 250+ PA, and Gomes' .201 OBP would be the lowest by any Major League player with 250+ PA since 1911. One simply cannot be a positive contributor when they are making an out 80% of the time they go to the plate.
Don't forget, Gomes also had a hard time on offense last season, and since the start of 2015 he's now batting .205/.241/.361 in 643 plate appearances, with a wRC+ of 59. That OBP again ranks as the worst among players with as much playing time as he's gotten. On top of his offensive woes, Gomes' defense doesn't seem as strong as it used to be. He's still excellent at throwing out would-be base stealers, but his pitch-framing has dropped to below average.
I have generally been very high on Gomes since his breakout year in 2013 (while Matt, he'd be happy to have me remind you, has been very high on Perez, and before the season began said he expected Perez to win the starting role before the end of this season), but Gomes has now been a replacement-level player for the last year and a half. The Indians have built a 6.5-game lead despite getting next to nothing on offense from their catcher, but they owe it to themselves to try and maximize their production in the second half, in their quest to win the division for the first time since 2007. With Perez ready to return from the DL, it's time to give him an extended opportunity as the team's primary catcher.