How can the Cardinals best use Jhonny Peralta?
St. Louis Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak has said that infielder Jhonny Peralta is expected to be activated this weekend as they play a three game set against the San Francisco Giants in St. Louis. The question then on everyone’s mind is how to use Peralta?
Peralta opened up the season penciled in as the starter at third base. It seems like the organization expected Jedd Gyorko to step in and take the job later in the season if he got hot and went on a power surge. However, Peralta struggled to open up the 2017 season and ended up on the disabled list after an adverse reaction to some cold medication.
In the mean time, Gyorko secured his hold on the everyday third base job. Through 37 games this season, Gyorko is hitting .330/.385/.607 with 7 home runs and has easily been the Cardinals’ most valuable position player. He’s even proving the doubters, like myself, wrong by continuing to play plus defense on the field.
There is also Greg Garcia on the roster who has hit .255/.367/.314 this season, but while Garcia is an on base machine, even last year Peralta provided more punch than that.
For his part, Peralta has admitted that he does not expect to come back as the starter at third base for the Cardinals. It seems like an obvious position for those of us who judge purely on performance, but it is a positive that he seemingly accepted what his opportunities are likely to look like going forward.
The benefit of the disabled list trip for Peralta was that he got an opportunity to take a rehab stint and hopefully find some of that long lost timing at the plate.
The answer to me for how you use Peralta is simple: You let him show you.
Be prepared, Peralta will likely draw a spot in the starting lineup a couple times over the first few days he’s up. I support this because you need to figure out what you have out of him sooner rather than later.
So to start, Peralta will most likely take most of the third base time away from Garcia and he will likely get some time at shortstop to spell Aledmys Diaz. I think, depending on how things shake out in the outfield, you could see him get some playing time in left field or even first base. Those are all positions he has played before in the Majors.
As I wrote last season, I don’t think his 2016 results were representative of the kind of player Peralta can be going forward. He had a hand injury last year and those are notorious for messing up swings and timing. It’s one of those situations where you’re “healed” but you aren’t actually back to 100%.
I still believe Peralta can be an average to slightly above average offensive threat. I don’t think we’ll see 2014 Peralta again, who hit .263/.336/.443 with 21 home runs, but I don’t think a Peralta who can hit .260/.330/.400 who can hit you 10+ home runs over the rest of the season is completely out of reach.
If you play him and he hits, you keep giving him opportunities. If he doesn’t hit, you limit his appearances.
The question at that point becomes what Mozeliak really meant when he said earlier this year that the organization was applying a short leash to Peralta. How long will they give him to find traction? If he can’t, will they release him? I think it’s a possibility, especially as Gyorko and Garcia continue to demonstrate that he may not be needed. And everyday that goes by, it gets cheaper to cut him.