Hickory Crawdads OF Yanio Perez had a huge week during the just-concluded homestand and the baseball world took notice.
Perez was named by the South Atlantic League as its hitter of the week. Also, MLB.com named Perez to its Prospect Team of the Week.
The Rangers No. 15 prospect, according to MLB.com, posted a slash line of .609/.654/1.304 with a double, five homers, three walks, seven runs scored and 13 RBI. Much of that came against the Columbia Fireflies during the weekend’s four-games series. A native of Cuba, the 21-year-old went 10-for-14 against the Fireflies with four homers and 12 RBI.
Perez is the first Crawdads hitter to receive the Sally League’s hitter of the week award since Eduard Pinto got the honor from July 4-10, 2016.
For the season, Perez is at .358/.453/.642 with five doubles, six homers and 11 walks. He is currently tops the SAL in OPS (1.095), second in total bases and slugging, tied for second in homers, tied for third in RBI, fifth in batting avg.
What are we seeing?:
Like his countryman Andy Ibanez in 2016, Perez got his U.S. pro league debut with Hickory this season, but he is 28 months younger the Ibanez.
When I went to Columbia to catch the Tim Tebow fever and to see the Crawdads in action there, I saw Perez up close for the first time. Listed at 6-2, 205, I can’t help think that the weight is a bit low. Perez’s build is like a linebacker that would take Tebow down. Solid, solid build.
Perez is in one of those zones right now where everything looks like a beach ball. After serving fastballs over the fence earlier in the Fireflies series, Perez started seeing more and more breaking balls on Saturday and Sunday. After smacking his first homer on Saturday, Columbia came back with a slider that stayed over the plate and went over the fence.
He worked a walk late in the game Saturday – all curveballs – and then on Sunday, one of the few mistakes Jordan Humphreys made in his start against Hickory was a hanging curve. It went far. In fact, all the homers were no-doubters to left center. It was like watching a replay.
The final AB for Perez against Humphreys in the seventh was an 11-pitch AB. With a 10-2 lead, Humphrey went back to fastballs only, but carefully placed them around the plate. Perez fell behind 0-2, then fouled off pitch after pitch before a mound visit with a catcher after the tenth pitch. Finally, the 11th pitch seemed like a ”let’s move onto the next hitter” pitch low and away.
What Perez is working on?:
Until this past week, Perez seemed to become uncertain on hitter’s count (2-1 or 3-0). Several check swings or weak contact on fastballs turned in outs, often in key situations. That’s not been a problem this past week. Fastballs are murdered. What will be interesting is to see how he handles the onslaught of offspeed pitches that are likely to increase.
Though Hickory is second in the SAL in homers, most are of the solo version. Perez, for now, gives the Crawdads a threat in the lineup that can spring the team for a big inning.
Like Ibanez last year at second, there seems like there is work to be done defensively. Strong arm at third, but the game at that position seems a little fast yet. In the outfield, he had a scary moment with Leody Taveras when Perez didn’t give ground on a drive to the gap, as the two bumped.