Teen Jose Peraza Could Be Braves' Next Star Shortstop





ATLANTA—Few organizations have developed shortstops with the same proficiency as the Braves during the past decade.

Andrelton Simmons reached the big leagues during the 2012 campaign following a brief, two-year minor league apprenticeship. Prior to Simmons, the Braves signed Elvis Andrus (2005) and Rafael Furcal (1996) out of Latin America, and those two shortstops subsequently met as opponents in the 2011 Cardinals-Rangers World Series.

Jose Peraza, who signed out of Venezuela in 2010, could be the next Braves shortstop in line. He hit .296/.350/.374 in 206 at-bats at two Rookie-level stops as an 18-year-old last season, stealing 25 bases in 30 tries.

"He can absolutely fly, and he barrels up the ball," said Rocket Wheeler, who managed Peraza in the Gulf Coast League in 2012. "He's also very good defensively with great instincts fielding the ball."

A righthanded hitter, Peraza uses his plus-plus speed to his advantage. He's an excellent bunter who makes solid contact when he swings away, and he has good instincts on the bases.

First-step quickness also benefits Peraza on defense, resulting in above-average range. He has soft, sure hands and knows where to go with the ball. Atlanta believes he can upgrade average arm strength with mechanical improvements because most of his errors have come when trying to make the spectacular play while throwing on the run.

"He's got to work on his throwing a little bit, but he'll show you an average arm, sometimes above-average," Wheeler said. "His accuracy needs work, but he has everything you look for in a shortstop."

The Braves intend to challenge Peraza with an assignment to low Class A Rome in 2013.

WIGWAM WISPS

• The Braves retained five of their six minor league managers from 2012: Aaron Holbert (Double-A Mississippi), Luis Salazar (high Class A Lynchburg), Randy Ingle (Rome) and Rookie-level skippers Jonathan Schuerholz (Danville) and Wheeler (GCL).

• Two new hires include Mississippi pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn, who spent the last six seasons in Cubs organization, and Lynchburg hitting coach John Moses, who served in that role last year at Double-A for the Astros.