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Braves prospect retrospect: Jose Peraza

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Before the Atlanta Braves had a top farm system, Jose Peraza was the top prospect in the organization. Let’s take a look at what could have been.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Cincinnati Reds Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Atlanta Braves farm system was considered among the elite of Major League Baseball, Jose Peraza was considered the system’s top prospect. In July of 2015, the Braves began to tear it down and move some pieces and Peraza was one of them. He was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers in part of the ill-advised Hector Olivera deal.

It made a young Ozhaino Albies the top prospect in the system, and suddenly that top spot was held by some very familiar names: Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ronald Acuña, Jr., Mike Soroka and Christian Pache. Four are staples in the lineup for the back-to-back National League East champs and one seems right behind.

Peraza, meanwhile, is on his fourth team in six years.

Jose Peraza, the Braves top prospect

The Braves were remodeling in 2015 and many felt that Peraza was ready to take over at second for the new-look team. It was somewhat surprising the star prospect was dealt at the time, but in hindsight, it didn’t hurt the Braves at all.

Peraza was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2010 at the age of 16 for $350,000. He made quick work of the minors — with an emphasis on quick — reaching Double-A Mississippi by the age of 20 and even appearing in the Futures Game. By then he had already been moved off shortstop due to Andrelton Simmons and was considered the second-best second base prospect in the game, only trailing Yoan Moncada for the top spot.

Scouts were enamored by his elite speed and sound, albeit aggressive, base-running instincts — he stole 124 bases in the 2013-14 seasons — and an ability to not strike out while producing a solid batting average (he never hit below .281 at any one stop). Now, while Peraza didn’t strike out a lot, he also rarely drew a walk and showed no power on his climb up the ladder, the latter wasn’t as devastating considering his skillset. The inability to draw a walk however was worrisome. When the on-base percentage is batting average driven, you are often left wondering what happens when a great prospect faces off against more advanced pitching.

He also transitioned well to second base, already known for his instincts, but having his speed to assist his range and an arm plenty strong moving from shortstop to second base.

Peraza was handling Gwinnett with relative ease in the 2015 season. He was slashing .294/.318/.379 with seven triples and 26 stolen bases at the time of the trade. Once he joined the Dodgers, he made his big league debut, ending the season with an uninspiring seven game run in the bigs.

Jose Peraza, six years later

The Peraza deal opened the door for a few things in Braves Country. For one, it accelerated the rise of Ozzie Albies, but also opened a spot for the Braves to pull off the Dansby Swanson trade. There are critics of the Swanson Era in Atlanta, but there’s this to be said: he came to the Braves at relatively no cost and if WAR is your thing (and it’s not mine), his f and bWAR are well higher than Peraza’s and his defensive analytics are also superior. It could have been worse.

Shortly after Peraza made his debut with the Dodgers, he was shipped to the Cincinnati Reds in his second “blockbuster” (that word is used generously here), three-team deal in six months, this one landing Todd Frazier on the Chicago White Sox. Peraza immediately slipped into the top prospect spot for the Reds. By the middle of June of that first 2016 season, Peraza was a regular in the Reds lineup playing all over the place at shortstop and second base, as well as left and centerfield.

It was a roller coater affair with the Reds the past four seasons. His debut year was a good one, hitting .352 with a career-best .763 OPS, 13 extra base hits and 21 stolen bases in 72 games, but his 2017 follow up was not as strong. He struck out more than he had been known for, but with the diminishing contact rates, his low walk rates remained in tact and he reached base less than 30 percent of the time in 143 games. Peraza bounced back in 2018 with a surprising 14 home runs, before struggling mightily in 2019, posting a .631 OPS, 62 wRC+ and a -0.6 fWAR for whichever analytic stat you like best.

For me, it’s always been wRC+. That 62 was the second such low-60s mark for Peraza in three seasons, and his 79 career wRC+ is just a tad bit short of Swanson’s and well short of Albies, the two people currently occupying what would be his position(s?) on the Braves. Even Johan Camargo has a higher career wRC+ than Peraza to further the point.

Peraza became a free agent and signed with the Boston Red Sox, somewhere he should have plenty of opportunity to continue in his jack-0f-all-trades role. Five MLB years after the trade, Peraza hasn’t put up terrible numbers, but his career .273/.312/.374 slash line and lack of elite production on the base paths certainly makes it easy to forget Peraza was once seen as a the gem of the Braves farm system.