Burning River Baseball recognized Robert Perez (@robebo23 on twitter) as one of the Indians top prospects back in April, mentioning then that he was likely to be the Tribe’s best bet at back-up catcher this year, but most fans are likely just hearing about Perez for the first time after he was called up earlier this week. After making the most of his first career start, with a single and two run home run in the win against the Yankees, it is time to learn a little more about Cleveland’s newest back-up back stop.
The 25 year old Roberto Perez, nicknamed Robo Cop, was originally drafted by the Indians in 2008 in the 33rd round out of Florida Gateway College. He didn’t make his professional debut until the following season, but when he did, he made a big impression, jumping from the rookie level AZL Indians to Mahoning Valley, then finally all the way to single A Lake County. Through that trek, he batted .313 with 14 doubles. While this was his best offensive season for awhile, it was also his worst defensively, an aspect that would come to define his game.
Over the next four years, Perez never hit above .225, but threw out 40% of attempted base stealers (129 of 332) and posted a fielding percent above .990 each season including an unreal .997 (962 total chances) in 2010 with Lake County. Baseball teams always need players who can reliably catch the ball and his great defense allowed Perez to advance through the system to the point where he was invited to Major League Spring Training this March, giving him a chance to play with Major Leaguers and make a name for himself. He was definitely noticed at the time and he made even more noise with the Clippers. For the first time in his minor league career, his offense caught up to his defense and he batted .409 in April, got on base more than 50% of the time and knocked in 12 runs. He added an excellent June that saw him bat .312, but increase his production with ten extra base hits and knocked in 21.
Using his great start as a jumping point, Perez was recently selected, along with Jesus Aguilar, for the International League All-Star Game, an honor he is well deserving of, although should be unable to enjoy completely as he is now in the Major Leagues. Generally, players numbers tend to drop off when they move up any level and with the decrease in playing time (Yan Gomes generally takes two or less games off per week) they could by even more, but even if he can’t keep up his AAA levels of .305/.405/.517, his defense alone will make him an incredible upgrade behind the plate when he does play. Perez has been a great story, being drafted at the very end of the draft, then overcoming the odds to advance through the minors until finally achieving his dream on July 9th, 2014 when he joined the Cleveland Indians as a Major League Baseball player.