Tomas Perez must be well liked. There’s no other way to explain his amazing longevity with the Phillies and insertion on the Venezuelan provisional roster in the inaugural World Baseball Classic.
No matter how poorly Perez hits (.233 BA, .277 SLG last season) he keeps going and going. He doesn’t even hit in Venezuelan winter ball, where he’s steadily outdone by minor leaguers. This winter, he hit .261 with one homer and a .316 on-base percentage in 197 at bats. Comparatively, Danny Sandoval, a minor leaguer with the Phillies, hit .317 with three homers and a .505 slugging percentage in 100 at bats.
As the provisional rosters were announced last Wednesday, it’s no surprise to see Pie Man’s inclusion on Venezuela, where he is apparently quite popular. Not unlike his status with the Phillies, he’s arguably the worst hitter on the roster. His role projects as a similar one with the Phils: Eating seeds, gazing at fans and cheering on Bobby Abreu.
With or without him, Venezuela will be mighty tough, perhaps a favorite based on their starting trio alone: Johan Santana, Freddy Garcia and Carlos Zambrano. Playing for the pride of their country, there isn’t a team that will want to face that. In addition, they will field an arsenal of talent, led by Abreu, Omar Vizquel, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.
Statistically, it’s hard to understand why Perez is still nursing a two-year contract with the Phillies that will pay him $700,000 next season, unless you accept the fact that he’s been on the right team at the right time.
A versatile defender for sure, his career has certainly benefited from playing in the National League. Having no DH creates more chances for defensive specialists who wouldn’t have the same opportunity in the American League. Some teams will carry players specifically because they’re good at bunting (Pete Orr, Atlanta). Others, like the Phils, carry two or more utility infielders, like Perez and Ramon Martinez.
Having Perez, a switch-hitter who can man all four infield positions, has made life easier for more than one manager. Plus, it’s not a roster spot teams will use in order to groom young talent. The steady playing time earned in Triple-A is worth more than an inning or two in the majors.
But now that the Phillies have signed Abraham Nunez, who can play third base and also hit, Perez appears to be sinking in the depth charts. For his sake, he better hope those pies of his can float.