CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There is a growing contingent of fans that believe Roberto Perez should be the Indians’ starting catcher. Manager Terry Francona may now be one of them.
The backup catcher’s time behind the plate has grown as of recent, and with the increased amount of plate appearances, his numbers have jumped as well. Perez’s rise to prominence became notable when he was behind the dish for Corey Kluber’s September 17th start, as Yan Gomes is normally the ace’s personal catcher.
That is probably because, since August 19th, Perez is slashing .358/.414/.774 in 18 games (15 starts) with four doubles, six home runs and 19 runs batted in.
“I think he’s earned the at-bats,” Francona said. “It’s something I have kind of wrestled with, how much to play him and how much to play Gomer. We’ll see how it goes the next week or so because it’s an important thing, but I think ‘Berto has earned it.”
The Puerto Rican backstop has posted a 33.1% hard-contact rate on the season, but in the last month, that number sits at 54.1%. Though the percentage of balls he has hit the opposite way sits at exactly his season mark of 16.2%, Perez has gotten more out of the balls he has hit to right.
Perez homered to deep right-center in the Tribe’s 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday, continuing a trend that Francona lauded.
“When he hits the ball to right field like that, like a lot of hitters, he’s more dangerous. And he’s strong enough to get rewarded for hits that way, so that allows him to stay on the breaking ball a little bit longer.”
With Perez already serving as the personal catcher for both Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, it may be time to pivot to the 28-year old full-time.
Defensively, though the eye test has Gomes and Perez barely separated, the latter currently holds 7 defensive runs saved to Gomes’s 1.
Perez is also a much better receiver of the ball, holding an 8.3 RAA behind the plate, which places him 6th in all of baseball despite a sample size of just under 1400 fewer pitches than any of the five catchers in front of him.
Speaking of increased roles, it may be high time that rookie Greg Allen is considered for the Indians’ post-season roster.
It would not be under any sort of consideration if Bradley Zimmer were still healthy and able to be the team’s speedster, but without the first rookie to roam center, Allen could be in a position to change playoff games.
The Indians’ currently outfield features Jay Bruce in right field and a platoon of Austin Jackson and Brandon Guyer in left. For the time being, Jason Kipnis is trying to find comfort in Zimmer’s old spot, but he has only seen one ball hit to him – and drop – in that time.
Meanwhile, Allen showed off both of his elite tools on Tuesday. The speedster singled and stole second in the 9th, setting up an intentional walk of Francisco Lindor that led to Jackson singling Allen home. It proved to be the winning run.
“It’s good to see him have the confidence to do that because every time he plays, he’s going to learn something,” Francona said. “He’s real attentive.”
Allen then ended the game on a diving catch on a blooper from Andrelton Simmons. The play was rated a 5-star catch by Statcast, as the 24-year old traveled 53 feet in 3.5 seconds.
If the Kipnis experiment continues, Allen will most likely be needed as defensive insurance in center, and pinch runners with #53’s speed do not come around often. Francona will be wise to consider making a spot for a weapon like Allen, albeit an inexperienced one.