Small sample sizes can be a smokescreen when trying to value a player, but Salvador Perez displayed he fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery costing him his 2019 season winning the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year in the American League.  Perez appeared in 37 games during the shortened season launching 11 home runs which ties for the third-highest result in 37 total games or less in a season. Only Frank Thomas who hit 12 home runs in 34 games in 2005 and Ted Williams with 13 home runs in 37 games in 1953 tallied more.

Among players with at least 150 plate appearances in 2020, Perez finished fourth in slugging percentage (.633), eighth in batting average (.333), tied for ninth in isolated power (.300) and 12th in on-base plus slugging (.986) in the majors. Not too shabby from a catcher. Part of the appeal of taking Perez at his position in fantasy lies in his power along with starting 28 of his contests batting third in the lineup. Perez also gets starts as the team's designated hitter allowing him to accrue precious at-bats while not expending energy behind the plate at a demanding position.

As far as 2020 goes, Perez logged 37 games with 156 plate appearances, 22 runs, 11 home runs, 32 RBI, one stolen base and a .333/.353/.633 slash line. He played 33 games as catcher, made one start at first base and three as the designated hitter.

Using his Statcast data, Perez shined last season with 16 barrels (13.9 percent) of his 115 batted ball events with an average exit velocity of 91 MPH, a robust 41.7 sweet spot percentage and 47 hard hit rate fueling his strong season. His expected statistics also impressed with a .325 expected batting average, .624 expected slugging and .387 expected weighted on-base average.

Part of his success, Perez notched a career best 34.8 line drive rate while almost eliminating pop ups (2.6 percent). Eight of his 11 home runs happened against fastballs and eight rated as no-doubters (a home run in any ballpark). While perusing his strong batted ball metrics, Perez traded some discipline to achieve these results. On Fangraphs, Perez registered the highest swinging strike percentage (14.2 percent) of his career while trading contact (his lowest at 75.8 percent). Thankfully, his Z-Contact (in the strike zone) of 89 percent helped his cause but adding this to his small sample size points to some regression in 2021. How much will determine his outlook since his draft capital will surge due to the power spike last season.

Over the last three years, using 2017 and 2018, (he missed 2019), and 2020 we get the following numbers:

  • Perez 2017, 2018, 2020 Seasons: 295 games, 1,199 plate appearances, 131 runs, 65 home runs, 192 RBI, three stolen bases; .262/.294/.488, 3.1 BB%, 19.9 K%, .226 ISO

Here's a visual of all of his line drives and fly balls in this time frame courtesy of Statcast:

These numbers provide a baseline of his value in regard to trying to project his numbers. Within the numbers above, it yields a run per 7.8 plate appearances (PA), a home run per 18.6 PA's, an RBI per 6.2 PA's and a stolen base every 400 PA's. One can bake an improved home run rate per plate appearance for 2021 if buying the gains in power but forecasting a batting average anywhere near his final one in 2020 seems like a reach.

Focusing on two different projection systems for another template of potential outcomes, here's how they see Perez in the upcoming season:

  • Perez 2021 Steamer Projection - 125 games, 541 plate appearances, 69 runs, 29 home runs, 85 RBI, three stolen bases; .262/.300/.490, 3.8 BB%, 21.8 K%, .229 ISO
  • Perez 2021 ZiPS Projection - 449 plate appearances, 49 runs, 24 home runs, 75 RBI, stolen base; .265/.294/.488, 2.7 BB%, 21.8 K%, .223 ISO

It's curious to see such a discrepancy between Steamer's 7.8 plate appearance per run versus ZiPS’ 9.2 rate in the same category. If Perez can stay at third in the lineup, his numbers become more intriguing for fantasy. His counting statistics get a boost hitting a premium spot in the lineup as a catcher with plus power.

Weighing all of this, there's a chance Perez can outperform his projections above but keeping it within reason, here are some potential outcomes dependent on plate appearances which could be tough to predict in the upcoming season:

  • Perez with 300 PA's: 41 runs, 17 home runs, 48 RBI, one stolen base
  • Perez with 450 PA's: 61 runs, 25 home runs, 73 RBI, one stolen base
  • Perez with 550 PA's: 74 runs, 31 home runs, 88 RBI, one stolen base

In relation to his batting average, think of a sliding scale from .263-to-.270-ish with a high tide in the low .270's but due to the past results and lack of discipline metrics, a return to anything close to his small sample form 2020 remains a reach. Buy Perez for the power, his position, and where he hits in the lineup. A huge season could ensue if he reaches the 550 plate appearance threshold above using a fusion of his projections: a run every 7.4 plate appearances, a home run every 18 plate appearances and an RBI every 6.2 plate appearances.

Statistical Credits:

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski