Currently, the Atlanta Braves are in the middle of an eight game long swoon that is causing Braves Country a significant amount of heartache. This weekend begins a crucial three game series against the division leading Washington Nations, so it is a little stressful right now. A little distraction is just what the doctor ordered. Let’s talk about the future. Going into the season Lucas Sims was the consensus top prospect for the Braves, but another Atlanta farmhand is making a case for the number one spot with a breakout season. That player is middle infielder Jose Peraza.
Peraza is a natural shortstop whom the Braves have shifted to second base because of Andrelton Simmons’ stranglehold on the major league starting job. He was signed 2010 out of Barinas, Venezuela. His career started for the DSL Braves that same year where he posted solid numbers. The next season he began with the GCL Braves, eventually finishing the season with Danville. The first time I saw Peraza in person was with the Danville Braves in 2012. He was still playing shortstop at the time, and was very impressive. His soft hands and quick reflexes were already on display defensively, and he was also lightning fast out of the right-handed batter’s box as he beat out a groundball to shortstop for an infield single. He finished 2012 with Danville hitting .281/.351/.339 with 15 stolen bases.
Before the 2013 season Baseball America began to take notice of Peraza. Bill Ballew offered a scouting report on Peraza in a February 2013 article.
A right-handed hitter, Peraza uses his plus-plus speed to his advantage. He’s an excellent bunter who makes solid contact when he swings away, and he has good instincts on the bases.
First-step quickness also benefits Peraza on defense, resulting in above-average range. He has soft, sure hands and knows where to go with the ball. Atlanta believes he can upgrade average arm strength with mechanical improvements because most of his errors have come when trying to make the spectacular play while throwing on the run.
Peraza began 2013 with Rome posting similar numbers, but he really broke out this season with a torrid start for the Lynchburg Hillcats. Peraza was already a highly regarded prospect, but the way he has played in 2014 has really opened some eyes. In 66 games with Lynchburg Peraza hit .342/.365/.454 with 35 stolen bases in 42 attempts. His hot start to the season earned him a call-up to Double-A Mississippi where he has still performed well. After 20 games he is hitting .331/.358/.419 with 24 more stolen bases. As Alan Carpenter posted earlier today, Baseball America’s minor league tools survey named Peraza the fastest base-runner in the Southern League. His excellence this season was also rewarded with a trip to the MLB Futures Game at Target Field. Peraza started at second base for the World team and batted third. He showed off that famous speed in his first at-bat with an infield single
Peraza has been fantastic this season and should be a great addition to the Braves major league roster sometime in the not-so-distant future. He could stand to draw a few more walks and work on his overall plate discipline, but right now his hit tool and speed are making up for those weaknesses. Tommy La Stella is playing well for the Braves at second base currently, so the question is when will an opportunity present itself for Peraza? There may be opportunity right now at shortstop.
With a disabled list trip for Andrelton Simmons looking possible, could Atlanta call Peraza up and temporarily shift him back to shortstop until Simmons returns? I find it unlikely that the Braves would do this, but it may be the best thing for the team. Two weeks of Ramiro Pena, and Tyler Pastornicky would almost certainly be worse than two weeks of Jose Peraza. There is always a worry about promoting a player before he is ready but I doubt a two week stint in the majors would do any significant damage to his development if it turned out he was over-matched. It would require some boldness on the part of Frank Wren, but if it helps the team win it would be worth the risk. Of course, none of this matters if Simmons avoids the disabled list. Whenever he gets to Atlanta Jose Peraza is going to be an exciting player and part of a fantastic double play combination with Simba.