Even before last night, when Sal Perez delivered the moment and win of the year so far, he was the Royals’ most important and irreplaceable player.
Even before last night, if you took a poll of the Royals’ baseball operations department — executives, scouts, coaches, and players — and asked their favorite player, Sal probably wins. Alex Gordon would get a lot of votes. James Shields, too. Some others. But Sal’s combination of coming up through the system, his charisma, constant energy, good heart, effectiveness with both the glove and bat … I do believe he’d win the popularity contest.
By now, Perez is probably the best catcher in the American League. He is the best catcher in baseball not named Yadier, and if you compare the two by age, Sal is actually ahead. Seriously, look:
Yadi Molina, through age 24: 405 games, 1,429 PAs, .248/.304/.349, and, for what it’s worth, 42 Defensive Runs Saved and no Gold Gloves or All-Star games.
Sal Perez, age 24: 334 games, 1,323 PAs, .297/.330/.449, and, for what it’s worth, 28 Defensive Runs Saved and one Gold Glove and two All-Star games.
If Perez continues the year how he’s started it, you can add about six DRS and one Gold Glove.
We can compare Perez to other greats, too. Like, if you use Baseball-Reference’s awesome Play Index, you can find that there are only eight catchers in baseball history to do better in the catch-all WAR stat by age 24 than Perez:
Johnny Bench, Joe Torre, Ivan Rodriguez, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter, Ray Schalk, Butch Wynegar and Joe Mauer.
If Perez continues the year how he’s started it, he would pass Mauer.
Yes, he is still under club control through 2019 for a total of $20 million.
Which is one more reason he’s a favorite of many in the organization.