It’s all but final at this point – Jhonny Peralta will be signing a 4 year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. Coming off a PED suspension that limited Peralta to 107 regular season games played in 2013, this is quite a nice pay day for the soon to be 32 year old short stop. As Jason Collette reminds us on twitter – "PED’s are bad kids."
At the time of his suspension, Peralta was slashing his way to a .303/.358/.457 line and had provided fantasy owners with 11 long balls and 105 runs + RBI’s. It was starting to look a lot like the 2011 Peralta many fantasy owners had profited from. Of course there’s also the 2010 and 2012 versions of Peralta that we must factor in to our 2014 projections. In those seasons fantasy owners were provided with 91 and 86 wRC+’s, respectively, with 13-15 home runs and sub .250 batting averages.
With this on again, off again, statistical history and a move to the National League, what should fantasy owners expect in 2014?
Let’s start with his power.
Even in his down years, Peralta still managed to hit double digit home runs, which is something that isn’t always easy to find in your shortstop or MI roster spot. While his ISO has slight fluctuations, he's always been able to maintain near league average fly ball and HR/FB rates, that have kept his home run totals ranging anywhere from respectable to pretty awesome for the shortstop position.
One would think a move from Comerica to Busch Stadium would help his home run total, however the park factors don't necessarily line up that way. According to the ESPN Park Factors, Comerica was a slight hitters park in terms of home runs last season, while Busch was definitely a pitchers park when it came to surrendering the long ball. Looking at 2012 and 2011 data this trend continues, so any hope Peralta's new home might allow a few more wall scapers to find the seats may leave fantasy owners disappointed next season.
Next let's take a look at Peralta's batting average.
Since 2010, Peralta has posted batting averages of .249, .299, .239 & .303. This inconsistency makes ranking Peralta rather tricky, as a bad batting average season can really tank his overall value since the majority of his production (when a solid contributor in fantasy land) comes from his home run totals and strong batting average. Peralta's BABIP has fluctuated over the years, with the largest outlier coming last season.
On top of the BABIP swing Peralta experienced last season, his walk and strike out rates had a less than ideal dip as well.
Last year Peralta swung at 70.1% of pitches in the zone (league average 65.5%), but only made contact with 83.1% of said pitches (league average 87.0% - career average 85.8%). His 11.0 swinging strike percent (highest mark since 2007) also shows he was unable to put bat to ball as often as previous seasons. At this point I'd say a .280 batting average would be a surprise going forward, let alone the .300 mark he posted in 2013.
Lastly there's the runs, RBI's and stole base categories.
Let's start with the latter.
Peralta has stolen 5 bases since 2009 - speed just isn't a part of his game. On top of that, he's leaving a team that was dead last in stolen bases in 2013 (35) and is signing with the team that finished one spot higher with 45 stolen bases. Project 1 stolen base if it makes you feel better, but they're not coming in bunches next season.
In terms of runs created (Runs + RBI's), Peralta is leaving one dominant team (Tigers scored 796 runs in 2013 - 2nd best in baseball) and is signing with another dominant run scoring team (Cardinals scored 783 runs in 2013 - 3rd best in baseball). In projecting runs and RBI's going forward, I would expect his RBI total to stay steady, but wouldn't be surprised if his runs scored fell some with this move. As Buster Olney suggests in this tweet, Peralta could be batting as low as 7th in the Cardinal's line up, which would put him two spots ahead of the pitcher. Obviously this is just speculation at this point in the off season, but when looking at names like Carpenter, Holliday, Craig and Molina, it wouldn't be surprising to see Peralta's name penciled in that low in the order.
To wrap it all up, Peralta could see regression across the board next season. When you factor in his high BABIP in 2013, a move to a less-friendly home run park and possibly hitting near the pitcher, Peralta is a middle tier MI option only for me in a standard mixed league.
All graphs provided by FanGraphs
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