For the first time since 2012, Salvador Perez's status as perennial starting catcher in Kansas City may be in jeopardy.
Perez has missed a bit of time this year due to injury, and he's beginning to be shifted over to DH, but currently is mostly being used as a catcher because A.) Vinnie Pasquantino has a lock on the DH position, and B.) Vinnie Pasquantino isn't playing first much because Nick Pratto has been taking most of his reps at first, and C.) What reps Pratto isn't taking at first, Hunter Dozier is playing first.
Okay. So Salvador Perez is catching. He can still catch. He's still a solid enough defender despite being in his 30s. But...while Perez was gone, the majority of starts at backstop went to rookie MJ Melendez. Melendez is an excellent power bat, and already has 14 homers and 41 RBIs, so he's been a lineup mainstay for a bit. Only problem is he's not a very good defensive catcher, and he's more of a liability there than Perez. But the batting element was enough for the Royals to part with longtime backup Cam Gallagher, who they traded to San Diego, where he is now trapped behind Jorge Alfaro and Austin Nola.
So now Perez and Melendez are battling for that starting catching spot. On one hand, this should be simple- Perez would be a first team All-2010s catcher if that list would be made today, and he has a chance for Hall of Fame consideration if he has a few more solid years. Meanwhile, Melendez, while an amusing bat, isn't the best catcher on the team. But at the same time, the Royals are trying to reestablish themselves as a younger, rebuilding roster, and having Bobby Witt, Nick Pratto, Michael Massey, Nate Eaton and Vinnie Pasquantino all up and doing well does speak to these future aspirations. Therefore somebody like Melendez fits more in that core than Perez, even though I imagine the Royals plan to use Perez in a veteran role going forward.
But Perez is just having the better season. He's only hitting .224, but he has 17 home runs and 51 RBIs. Yes, his transformation into a power hitter is pretty complete, but he still is a nice fit as a backstop, and he has a higher WAR than any hitter on this team not named Michael Taylor. Injuries in mind, I still think Perez has some more elite years left, and I think there's a way of keeping him around while also fitting Melendez into the equation without resigning oneself to having a bad catcher.
The Royals still have some things to sort out, but hopefully they get this one right.
Coming Tomorrow- A guy who probably wishes he was hanging out with little leaguers like his old Boston teammates tonight.