Down on the Farm: Juan Perez

JuanPerezAfter waiting since May 25th for Angel Pagan‘s inflamed hamstring to heal after his epic dash around the bases to beat Colorado in extra innings at AT&T Park, the Giants finally relented and placed him on the DL, retroactively, ensuring he can rejoin the team on Wednesday against Pittsburgh if he is ready.

 

In the meantime, rather than promoting red-hot prospect Roger Kieschnick from Triple-A Fresno, the Giants called up an equally productive player in Juan Perez.

You may have heard about Perez’s adventurous path to the Majors by now. The 26-year-old Dominican native moved to the Bronx in 2001, starred at high school in New York, but decided to work for his father’s plumbing company when he wasn’t drafted. He played baseball on the side for La Caribe Baseball League in the Bronx, an amateur league where most of the players are Dominican, fans literally buy beer at a corner store, and drinks usually end up in the dugout at some point or another.

 

Perez’s father encouraged him to focus more on baseball. He went to Western Oklahoma State College, where he proceeded to set NJCAA Division II records for home runs (37) and RBIs, earning player of the year honors to go along with his .437 average, .530 OBP and 62 extra-base hits in 64 games. Amazingly, Perez did all that on a bum ACL that required surgery after the season.

 

These video game numbers caught the attention of Dick Tidrow, San Francisco Giants vice president of player personnel, so the Giants took Perez in the 13th round of the 2008 draft. He struggled a bit in his first season of professional ball at Low-A Augusta, hitting only .244, but he shined in Single-A, hitting .298/.337/.472 with 13 home runs, 37 doubles, and 10 triples. After a promotion to Double-A Richmond, Perez hit .302 with 11 home runs, 26 doubles, and 18 stolen bases in his second year there. So far in Triple-A Fresno, Perez was hitting .296/.331/.507 before his call up. He had 12 stolen bases and had only been caught twice while cranking 9 home runs in 57 games.

 

“For his size, he’s probably the strongest player pound-for-pound in the system,” minor league hitting coordinator Steve Decker said. “He’s a strong kid and strong people tend to search for power, but I don’t think he understands how fast he is and how productive he can be if he focuses on line drives and walks. He can wreak havoc that way.” (Link)

 

Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly reported that more than one scout informed him that Perez is actually a better defensive outfielder than top prospect Gary Brown. Perez has played all three outfield positions in the minors and can play shortstop and second base, but he’s most comfortable at third base, the position at which he was drafted. His versatility, speed, and potential at the plate could earn him more regular playing time in center field or left field. Perez can provide some pop off the bench, speed on the base paths, and flexibility for late-inning substitutions. He is an ideal utility player if he can show that he can be productive enough to warrant a spot on the big league roster.

 

It may be a pipe dream to hope Perez could stick as an everyday player in the Majors this year, but Perez is pretty handy with pipes from his plumbing days in the Bronx.

 

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~Paul Ghiglieri

 

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