- Full name Fernando Perez
- Born 04/23/1983 in Elizabeth, NJ
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Columbia
- Debut 09/05/2008
- Drafted in the 7th round (195th overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2004 (signed for $160,000).
Organization Prospect Rankings
After playing with the Rays down the stretch in 2008 and earning a spot on their postseason roster, Perez entered last year as a strong candidate to be their fourth outfielder. That plan unraveled in late March when he dislocated his left wrist and had surgery. The highest player ever drafted out of Columbia (seventh round), he traveled with the big league club throughout the season in order to get better acclimated to the big leagues, and got into 18 games in September. Perez's game is centered on speed, with several scouts saying he's as close to an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale as anyone in professional baseball. He has an incredible first step, which allows him to get great jumps in center field as well as on the basepaths. He has improved his technique by getting bigger leads on stolen-base attempts and taking better routes on balls in the gaps. His arm strength rates as average and he makes accurate throws. A switch-hitter since 2006, Perez must reduce his high strikeout totals and make more consistent contact, particularly from the left side. He also needs to continue honing a small-ball approach, with a focus on improving his bunting. He has a little pop and can hit an occasional home run. While Perez would be a big league starter for some teams, his future with Tampa Bay is unclear with the emergence of Desmond Jennings and presence of Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. He should land a big league job this year as a backup outfielder and pinch-runner.
A September callup, Perez saw considerable activity during the pennant race while B.J. Upton nursed a strained left quadriceps. A member of the Rays' postseason roster in all three series, Perez was a hero in the pivotal Game Two of the American League Championship Series, racing home from third on a short sacrifice fly with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th. One of the fastest players in baseball with incredible first-step explosion, he has game-changing speed on the bases and in center field. He took up switch-hitting in 2006 in order to better utilize his quickness. He has worked diligently on getting better leads, which enabled him to improve his stolen-base success rate to 80 percent last year. Perez, who remains the highest-drafted player ever out of Columbia (seventh round), is on the verge of sticking with Tampa Bay. The key will be how much consistency he can show at the plate. He has quick hands and occasional power, but his strikeout totals (156 in Triple-A) are unacceptable for his profile. He needs to shorten his swing, especially with two strikes, and become a better bunter in order to put more pressure on the defense. If he can't reduce his whiffs, he could resume batting solely righthanded because he makes much more contact from that side of the plate. There's nothing to quibble about Perez defensively, as he has an average arm to go with his exceptional range. He won't take Upton's job, but if Tampa Bay can't find a right fielder, Perez could handle center field with Upton moving to right.
One of the catalysts on Montgomery's championship team in 2007, Perez made the Southern League and Baseball America Double-A all-star teams. The highest-drafted player ever out of Columbia (seventh round), Perez has excellent tools, featuring quick-twitch muscles and above-average athleticism. His speed ranks near the top of the 20-80 scouting scale and he uses his legs to his advantage on the basepaths and in center field. Perez began switch-hitting in 2006 and showed progress last year. While he's capable of driving the ball from his natural right side, he employs a slap-and-run approach from the left side. He has work to do with making more consistent contact and maintaining his balance at the plate, but scouts believe he will be a much better hitter than former Rays speedster Joey Gathright. Perez does a good job of drawing walks. He uses his intelligence in the outfield, where he has plus range with controlled actions and a solid-average arm. A soccer player for most of his life, he continues to learn the nuances of baseball. His success rate on steals dropped to a career-low 64 percent last season, and he has the quickness to do much better than that. With his speed, defense and improving performance at the plate, Perez could be a factor in the major leagues, though the Rays are loaded with outfield options. After being added to the 40-man roster for the first time, he'll begin 2008 in Triple-A.
Perez continued to make progress toward becoming a quality leadoff man and center fielder. The highest-drafted player ever out of Columbia, Perez hit .339 over the final two months, led the minors in runs scored and earned the managers' vote as the best defensive outfielder in the California League. He combines athleticism and intelligence to get the most out of his ability. A natural righthanded hitter, Perez began to switch-hit in 2006. With top-of-the-line speed, he focuses on hitting the ball on the ground, believing if it bounces twice he'll beat it out for an infield hit. Though he hit .303 from the left side, he needs to do a better job of making contact against righthanders. Perez has more to learn about basestealing as well, as he was caught 16 times in 49 attempts, too often for a player with his speed. He also can improve at taking the proper angles on fly balls instead of relying on his speed to recover from mistakes. His arm is average. Perez isn't as one-dimensional as former Devil Rays speedster Joey Gathright, whom they traded to the Royals in 2006. He'll move up to Double-A this year, and Tampa Bay continues to have high hopes for him.
The highest-drafted player ever out of Columbia University (seventh round in 2004), Perez solidified his status as one of Tampa Bay's top prospects in his first full pro season. He led the Midwest League in steals and overcame an early-season slump. Batting just .239 at the end of May, he raised his average to .289 by season's end. Perez has struggled at times making contact, though he gave switch-hitting a try during instructional league and had success. He has a good eye at the plate, which enhances his ability to use his speed. That's easily his best tool, as managers rated him the best and fastest baserunner in the MWL. He has an incredible first step and can run with anyone in the minor leagues. Perez is a strong defensive outfielder with plus-plus range in center field. He also tied for fourth in the MWL with 13 outfield assists. The Rays love his even-keeled approach and his exceptional intelligence. He wants to learn everything possible about the game. He's still discovering the nuances of running the bases and taking the right angle on balls in the outfield, but there's no question he has the talent to develop those skills. A full season in high Class A awaits in 2006.
Minor League Top Prospects
Perez is a cerebral player, as one might expect from the highest-drafted player ever (seventh round, 2004) out of Columbia University. He learned how to switch-hit in the offseason, and while he struggled from the left side early in the year, he soon began hitting line drives and finished with a .303 average against righthanders. He's a dynamic player who led the minors with 123 runs scored. "He's a game-changer. You don't want to see him up in the ninth inning up by one or in a tie game, because he'll bunt, he'll slap one to left or hit it in the gap, and you're just praying you'll get the ball in fast enough before he gets to third," Steverson said. "He's just irritating. He roams the outfield like there are just floating pop-ups up there all day. I know for a fact he's taken 15 hits away from us." Perez has outstanding range in the outfield thanks to his plus-plus speed, though he's still working on his defensive instincts. He has a playable, if not strong, outfield arm. Perez has plenty of things to refine in his game--he strikes out too much for a top-of-the-order hitter, and he was thrown out in 16 of his 49 steal attempts--but he offers an intriguing leadoff package and enough strength at the plate to make him more than a one-dimensional Punch-and-Judy hitter.
Best Tools List
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the International League in 2008
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the California League in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Midwest League in 2005
- Rated Best Baserunner in the Midwest League in 2005