For three years now, Hernan Perez has essentially been Craig Counsell’s “sixth man” — never a true starter, but filling in enough that he basically gets a low-end starter-level number of at-bats.
That changed a bit in 2018, when he only saw 334 plate appearances in 132 games — down from a career-high 458 in 136 games the year before. Part of that was the midseason acquisition of Mike Moustakas cutting into his playing time, but a large part of it was also his ineffectiveness (which in a way may have made the Moustakas move necessary).
Perez hit just .253/.290/.386 and had his worst OPS (.676), OPS+ (80), wOBA (.292) and wRC+ (79) as a Brewer. While his batting average and on-base percentage were close to 2017 levels -- which weren’t great to begin with — Perez at least carried the threat of occasional power in his first two seasons with the Brewers, but that never materialized in 2018.
It turns out there might have been good explanation for that, aside from the assumption many of us likely held that he was a utility player who was being overexposed. According to Tom Haudricourt, Perez played most of last season with a bone chip in his wrist, which sounds painful and would understandably cut into a hitter’s power.
There was good reason #Brewers Hernan Perez wasn't same at plate last year. Just revealed played much of season with bone chip in left wrist. Had surgery in offseason.— Tom (@Haudricourt) February 16, 2019
Gotta give #Brewers Hernan Perez credit for not using wrist as excuse last season when he struggled: "No excuses. "— Tom (@Haudricourt) February 16, 2019
Barring an unforseen signing — whether it’s a second baseman or Mike Moustakas, shifting Travis Shaw back to second — Perez figures to get an extended look as an option for the Brewers at second base this spring, even if it’s as the righty-swinging half of a platoon with Cory Spangenberg.
Perez’s defensive contributions have been enough to make him a positive-WAR player the past couple seasons despite some lackluster offensive performances. Getting the wrist healthy could potentially help bring back the double-digit home run power that essentially carried his offensive value in previous years. The addition of left-handed bench bats like Spangenberg and Ben Gamel should also help make sure that more of Perez’s opportunities to hit are in situations that set him up for success. Perez hit just .239/.282/.330 against right-handed pitching last year, but hit .277/.304/.479 against lefties.
Whether or not Perez is in The Best Shape Of His Life is still unconfirmed, but it looks like he should at least be in better shape than he was for much of last year.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference