Fantasy Baseball: Don't Forget About David Peralta
Remember when David Peralta was a pitcher?
Yes, it's easy to forget that in 2005, Peralta signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a 17-year-old pitching prospect. But he never made it past rookie ball, eventually getting released in 2009. From there, he decided his only shot at the big leagues was to make an unlikely and difficult journey by converting to the outfield. This was a dude making fries at McDonald's to play independent ball.
He made his major league debut as an outfielder in 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and hasn't looked back since.
Now 29 years old, much like his forgotten pitching career, Peralta is a bit of a forgotten man in fantasy baseball this year. In NFBC drafts, he's going just inside 275th overall, and in some cases dropping outside the top 300.
This is due -- in no small part -- to wrist and back injuries that limited him to 48 games last season.
The wrist in particular was a nuisance, and actually dates back to an injury that caused him to miss the last three games of 2015. It was not expected to be a lingering concern, but in a cruel twist of fate, Peralta was hit by pitches in the same wrist several times early on, causing him to miss close to a month. He then re-aggravated the injury in August running into an outfield wall, ultimately leading to season-ending surgery.
Although Peralta's wrist injuries appear to be a heaping pile of bad luck, it's a particularly tricky injury for hitters to recover from. Of course, Peralta claims his wrist is 100 percent now, and is also switching to an ax-handled bat, something other players have done following similar injuries. But even with a successful Spring Training, there's no telling whether or not his wrist will affect him at some point.
The risk is clearly baked into the price, but the flukey nature of Peralta's injuries may be scaring owners away more than they should. What could he bring to the table this season?
Given Peralta's unusual path to the Show, he's only played in three major league seasons, with his breakout 2015 campaign being the only one with over 500 plate appearances. He slashed a cool .312/.371/.522 with 17 home runs, 78 RBI, and 9 stolen bases. His 137 wRC+ was tied for the 14th best that season with some guys names David Ortiz and J.D. Martinez.
It's just one season, though, so some might be skeptical whether that performance can be repeated. And it's easy to completely write off his injury-plagued 2016, which saw his line plummet to .251/.295/.433, as both his walk rate (4.4%) and strikeout rate (23.0%) reached career worsts.
But below the surface are signs that the same hitter was still hiding in there. If we look at Peralta's batted ball profile and plate discipline, there are more similarities between 2015 and 2016 than you might expect.
Most notably, his hard-hit rate (Hard%) stayed high, and despite the rise in the strikeouts, his swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) remained mostly unchanged. Furthermore, his contact rate (Contact%) actually went up in 2016, although he swung at more pitches (Swing%).
Peralta's makeup of line drives, ground balls, and fly balls also hovered in the same range. For the most part, outside of perhaps swinging at too many pitches, it looks like his approach changed very little amidst the injuries.
Even his low batting average could be explained in part by a big drop in BABIP (.368 to .310). Not that .310 is a bad number by itself (.300 is around average), but his .344 career BABIP is a promising sign that it should be higher in subsequent seasons.
That said, not everything was the same in his batted ball profile, as his infield fly-ball rate jumped to a career worst 13.5%, and his home-run-to-fly-ball rate dropped from 17.7% to 10.8%. His average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives declined from 95.6 to 94.4. Wrist injuries often result in reduced power, and this very likely was the case for Peralta.
His wrist remains a slight concern in sapping his home run power this season, but overall, there are positive signs here that if he's healthy, he could duplicate his 2015 numbers.
Peralta's biggest weakness thus far in his career has been an inability to hit left-handed pitching.
There's no getting around the stark contrast across the board between his lefty/righty splits, the most troubling of which are his strikeouts.
The one bit of good news is he's only had 215 plate appearances against lefties. If given the chance, he might be able to work through these issues.
But will he get that chance? That's very much up in the air, as reflected by Roster Resource, which has him slated for a platoon going into the season. It's a scenario that can't be ruled out, particularly after recovering from season-ending surgery.
However, he's batted cleanup the majority of the past two seasons, an ideal spot that would help alleviate some of the lost at-bats from a platoon. It's nonetheless a situation worth monitoring throughout the spring that could affect Peralta's ceiling.
According to numberFire's brand spanking new projections this week, Peralta has a very reasonable baseline of 491 plate appearances, 60 runs, 16 home runs, 59 RBI, 7 stolen bases, and a .277 average. That may not sound exciting, but barring another string of tough-luck injuries, this is his floor, and one he has a great chance to exceed with a full load of plate appearances.
Comparisons to teammate A.J. Pollock are fitting, as both are returning from flukey injuries following breakout seasons. No one is saying they have the same upside -- Peralta isn't about to steal 30-40 bases -- but strictly as hitters, their stats aren't so different. In fact, Peralta's career 119 wRC+ is a tick higher than Pollock's 118 mark.
Pollock is being drafted as a top-10 outfielder. Peralta is going as a late-round flier.
This is a guy who could bat cleanup, is in his prime, and had a wRC+ on par with Big Papi a couple seasons ago. No, he won't wow you in any one category, and there remains some uncertainty with his wrist and playing time, but it's difficult to find a proven all-around contributor this late.
Be sure to circle, highlight or bold Peralta's name on your cheat sheet before your draft. He's a no-brainer value pick this year.