Following Zack Cozart’s departure via agency many questioned whether José Peraza could be the Cincinnati Reds everyday shortstop. Entering the 2019 season those doubts have been erased.
The 2018 season was José Peraza’s coming out party. Replacing Zack Cozart who had manned the shortstop position since the middle of the 2011 season for the Cincinnati Reds, Peraza had large shoes to fill. He proved to be more than equal to the task.
It seems like José Peraza has been in the Cincinnati Reds organization forever. Acquired from the club’s favorite trade partner, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Peraza was part of the three-way deal that sent former Reds third baseman Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox in December of 2015. Peraza made his Reds debut in 2016 and almost inconceivably, won’t turn 25-years-old until next April.
Much like his team’s season, the 2018 campaign began with an inauspicious start. Opening the season hitless in his first 12 plate appearances, many began to grumble if we were going to see a repeat of the 2017 season.
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Peraza entered that season as the starting second baseman following the trade of long time Reds fixture Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves. After scuffling at the plate during the first half of the season the reins were handed to Scooter Gennett who seized the opportunity with aplomb.
Fortunately for the Reds, Peraza would silence all his critics. The young Venezuelan established career highs in almost every offensive category. Peraza slashed .288/.326/.416 in addition to belting 14 homers and swiping 23 bases. The right-handed hitting infielder led the National League in singles with 133 and proved to be a pesky out for opposing pitchers as well. He was the toughest hitter in the senior circuit to strikeout by whiffing just once every 8.4 at bats.
To put Peraza’s season in perspective let’s look at Barry Larkin‘s age 24 season. Larkin, the greatest shortstop in Cincinnati Reds history, slashed .296/.347/.429 with 12 home runs. Those numbers are eerily similar to Peraza’s. The 182 base hits Peraza collected last year were second most in Reds history for a shortstop trailing only Larkin’s 185 in 1990. I’m not saying Jose Peraza is bound to join Larkin in Cooperstown, but his future is bright.
While Peraza exceeded all expectations at the plate the responsibilities of handling the most important defensive position on the diamond proved to be more of a challenge. Playing exclusively at shortstop for the first time in his career Peraza led National League shortstops in errors with 22 miscues.
However, he finished fourth among NL shortstops in both assists with 403 and double plays with 85 turned. One has to believe with more experience the errors will subside and Peraza can develop into an above average defender.
As the Reds move closer to contention the left side of the infield could prove to be one of the best in the league for years to come. Peraza is under team control contract-wise through the 2022 season. Third baseman and fellow countryman Eugenio Suárez is signed through the 2024 campaign. The Reds have a long history of excellent shortstops. Leo Cardenas, Dave Concepcion, Larkin and Cozart. Look for José Peraza to carry that mantle into the future.