Jose Peraza has been at shortstop before. He is coming home in a sense with a chance to win the position rather than backing up a more established player.
The 23-year old from Barinas, Venezuella, is returning to the position he played when he caught the eye of the Braves scout Rolando Petit at shortstop. Peraza was 16.
Peraza is moving from second base to shortstop for the Reds, filling the void left by Zack Cozart’s free-agent departure for the Angels.
“I like it,” said Peraza without an interpretor as he tries to sharpen his English language skills. “When I signed with the Braves, I played shortstop.”
Peraza filled in at shortstop in 48 games when Cozart was injured. Peraza was a disappointment offensively early the season. Price has seen enough of Peraza at short to be comfortable with the move.
“It wasn’t a concern because he doesn’t have a small sample size,” Price said. “It’s not like spring training is a tryout. I don’t have any qualms about his ability to play the position.”
Bryan Price envisioned Peraza along with Billy Hamilton at the top of the lineup - both blessed with superior speed - setting up Joey Votto. That fell apart last season when both Peraza and Hamilton struggled to get on base.
Hamilton had .299 on-base percentage. Peraza’s was .297 with just 20 walks, surprisingly a career-high. He played seven more games than Hamilton. He didn’t get as many at bats because he was dropped in the batting order. Peraza hit first or second in 39 games and sixth or lower in 71 starts, with seventh his spot for 56 games.
That is his status as of now even though his numbers improved the last two months of the season. From July 27 on - his last 48 games - Peraza hit .293 and had a .361 on-base percentage. He set career highs in runs, hits, doubles, triples and home runs.
“For right now, he’ll hit seventh,” Price said “The lineup is fluid at this point. Whichever lineup that gives us the best chance, we’ll use.”
The Braves had Andrelton Simmons just ahead of Peraza in the system and moved Peraza to second base.
“The Braves told me when I went to winter ball in Venezuella to play shortstop,” Peraza said. “I played at High A (Lynchburg) in 2014, I played second base. Before that I played shortstop every time. Before I signed with the Braves I played shortstop and pitcher.”
Now he’s back at shortstop where he started. Atlanta changed his position because they liked his bat.
Peraza hit .342 at Lynchburg, the year he switched to second base. The Braves moved him to Double A Mississippi, where he continued to hit well (.335). Peraza hit 11 triples that season and stole 60 bases. An aggressive hitter, he only walked 17 times.
Starting 2015 at Triple A Gwinnett, Peraza hit .294 in 96 games with seven triples. He stole 26 bases. The Braves traded Peraza to the Dodgers at the trading deadline. The Dodgers added outfield to his tool box and he debuted with them late in the season, hitting .182 in seven games.
Reds scouts were trying to get him from Atlanta but worked a three-way deal with the Dodgers and White Sox before the 2016 season. The Reds gave up Todd Frazier. Peraza came to Cincinnati with Brendon Dixon and Scott Schebler.
Peraza continued to sharpen his skills with Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League where he played shortstop and hit .316 in nine games.
“I’m comfortable. I’m working in the cage, taking a lot of swings” Peraza said. “I went to winter ball and tried to feel good at the plate.”
Peraza has been at shortstop in both Cactus League games he’s been in.
“I have a great opportunity,” Peraza said. “I’m taking a lot of ground balls. I’m doing my job. I practice everyday, the same thing. It feels good.”
Quackenbush Quietly In The Mix
Veteran Kevin Quackenbush has 193 Major League games on his record, pitching for the Padres for four seasons.
He was placed on the disabled list last August and designated for assignment on September 1, clearing waivers and assigned to Triple A El Paso.
The Reds signed the former eighth-round pick of the Padres in 2011 to a minor-league deal in October.
“He’s kind of that off-the-radar guy who has really pitched very well,” Price said. “He is extremely prepared and has great confidence in his fastball. He has a really good curveball and isn’t overpowering with his velocity numbers but that guy who pitches with an elevated fastball.”
Quackenbush has been in seven games and allowed one unearned run.
Reds Add A Run
Unseen in the Reds’ 16-13 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday was the runner Alex Blandino crossed the plate before minor league pinch runner Michael Beltre was tagged in a rundown.
According to Jack Efta, who scored the game for the MLB.com live ap, no one saw the umpire signal that Blandino crossed the plate before the tag because the out ended the game.
The score, should historians decide to look up this game, is officially 16-14 and chalk up another RBI for Nick Senzel.