Mired in a .500 season and a seemingly unbreakable streak of terrible rotations, the Arizona Diamondbacks fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season. Except for offensive stalwart Paul Goldschmidt. The 27-year-old first baseman leads baseball in batting average and is somewhere in the top five for each of the most telling batting statistics.
He has securely made his claim as the face of the franchise. The line he boasts: .337, .451, .575, and a 1.026 OPS. Unexpected, but not surprising.
The casual fan may not know that Arizona has other players on their roster! While Goldy has stolen the show, the D’backs have the third best offense in major league baseball. That can’t be achieved with just one good hitter. What is making that lineup work?
The answer is 28-year-old outfielder David Peralta. He has been incredibly solid all season while going completely unnoticed.
He’s the most well-kept secret in baseball.
The Road Less Traveled
Peralta (full name Senger David Guerrero Peralta), born in Venezuela, took maybe the most unorthodox path to a major league outfield — ever. His journey begins back in 2004 when he was signed as an amateur free agent by the St. Louis Cardinals.
As a pitcher, not an outfielder. He touted himself as both, but the Cardinals chose pitching as the best for him.
Coming in as a young, raw hurler lowers your odds of success purely based on the number of pitchers that are recruited compared to position players, among other factors. While position player-turned-pitcher has been seen many times in baseball, the opposite is very rare.
Peralta quickly learned that he wasn’t meant to pitch. He was forced out of the Cardinals organization after two shoulder injuries and a horrid performance in rookie ball as a result. However, at only 21 years old, Peralta was able to change course and reinvent himself as an outfielder.
In order to prepare himself for the completely different world of hitting and fielding balls in the outfield, Peralta cut down on fat by redesigning his diet. At the end of two years, he had added lots of muscle but shed ten pounds.
Even so, it was tough to get major league clubs to notice him again. He cycled through multiple indy league clubs for more than three years. The monthly earnings were sometimes less than $500, and he lived in less-than-comfortable conditions. Even performing well in those independent leagues wasn’t enough to draw any scouts.
The Big Break
Finally, Peralta got a hold of the phone number of Arizona scout Chris Carminucci. He made sure to consistently communicate with him and not lose a well-timed opportunity. Peralta was still relatively young, but the earlier a contract is signed, the more money there is to be made over a career.
The scout agreed to let him show the Diamondbacks the revamped arsenal he had worked so long at, and he impressed. Just days later he was signed to a contract.
104 games later, Peralta was ready for his D’backs debut. He consistently hit over .300 in each of his eight seasons with eight minor league teams, sometimes even reaching a .350 average in 400+ plate appearances. He got his call-up with a .297, .359, .480 line in 55 games with the Mobile BayBears in the first half of 2014.
He made his major league debut on June 1, and blasted through the usual bench-warmer role for unproven rookies. The Diamondbacks’ quickly penciled him his as their everyday right fielder and No. 3 hitter. That immediate role in the middle of the lineup was accentuated with Paul Goldschmidt out for the season with a left-hand fracture. The then 26-year-old Peralta did not disappoint.
He did everything well at the plate while providing average defense. The Top 30 outfield rankings suddenly included his name in tell-all stats such as OPS. He finished 2014 with a line of .286, .320, .450, and that .770 OPS.
He would blow all of those numbers away in 2015.
This Season’s Unnoticed Excellence
It’s all because of that darn D’backs pitching staff. If they had just a decent team ERA, Peralta’s fantastic season may be getting more national recognition. But alas, that’s how baseball goes.
In 333 at-bats this year, Peralta is hitting .306, .372, and .529 with 64 RBI. His .901 OPS is sixth in the NL, as is his .384 wOBA and .360 BABIP. How much has he improved over last year’s stats? His BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS have all increased over 85% respectively. And 2014 wasn’t any slouch.
It’s not just Peralta — lots of under-the-radar players have done some great things for Arizona this year. Yasmany Tomas is having one of the better rookie performances is baseball (other than Correa and Bryant, of course).
A.J. Pollock has been a plus defender and great contact bat at the top of the lineup, and Wellington Castillo — with his third team of the season –has the pop back in his swing.
Admittedly, Peralta’s bat in the middle of the lineup has capitalized on those other great performances. Protection in the batting order has a bigger impact than many realize, and that applies here. With Goldschmidt batting third, Pollock first, and Peralta hitting cleanup or fifth, he comes up to bat with lots of men on base.
Therefore, pitchers are hesitant to give him anything to hit. He gets 3.8 pitches per plate appearance, which is good for 19th among NL outfielders. That is one of his lower batting rankings, but he capitalizes on those pitches. He is tied for tenth among NL outfielders in extra-base hits with 42, and is sixth in RBI with 64.
Finally, the catch-all stats of WAR and wRA+ paint Peralta as a player GMs should be fighting to get on their roster. His WAR of 2.9 is good for 21st in the NL, and he places eighth in wRA+ (weighted runs created, which accounts for park differences).
A player can get all the protection he wants, and see as many pitches as he wants, but its what he does with those opportunities that make him valuable. Peralta has been one of the best in baseball at that, all while going completely under the radar.
It’s time for the baseball world to recognize him for what he is — a great deal. He’s only making $512k this year.
But if his production keeps improving, big money is on the way.
18 year old Washington sports fan and Penn State freshman. I'll cover the MLB, NFL, and NBA.