ST. LOUIS — Jhonny Peralta was everything the Cardinals hoped for in the first year of four-season contract. GM John Mozeliak praised him at the break, and the 32-year-old played even better in the second half.
Peralta hit 21 homers, drove in 75 and had an on-base percentage of .336. In the field, he didn’t show the diminished skills many feared and finished 17 runs above average, committing 12 errors while turning 98 double plays. It was the year St. Louis needed out of the position, and Peralta’s only black mark – just a .263 average - was improving over the final two months of the season.
So what to expect in 2015?
If it goes well
It looks a lot like 2014, only better. Peralta continues solid play at short, compensating for age with a quicker release. At the plate, he avoids the tortoise-slow start of 2014 and hovers north of .270. The power numbers hold, and with more balanced power in the lineup, he isn’t the only long ball threat. This gives him better pitches, giving him ample opportunities for doubles and RBIs.
He finishes hitting .270, hits 20 home runs and slugs .450 while driving in 70.
If it doesn’t
Peralta’s average fails to eclipse 2014, and his power output drops. The home run total shrinks to a number in the low teens, and he slugs well below .400. His play at short is inconsistent, as he turns fewer double plays and hits into more of them.
Because of the decline, he slides toward the bottom of the order. Eventually, he sees less action as Mike Matheny tries different lineup combinations to spur consistent run production. The year closes with Peralta hitting .255 with 11 homers and slugging .380. The RBI count goes south of 60 and his salary is often lamented on sports radio.
Peralta is a tricky prediction because his season-to-season numbers are pretty disparate. In my best-case scenario above, I described his 2007 and 2008 seasons, roughly. The depressing version is pretty close to his 2009 or 2012 (though he had 83 RBIs in 09).
His third best home run total was 2014, a year that was in the middle of the pack for average, slugging and RBIs. He’s a career .267 hitter, so I don’t expect him to finish dramatically above that - especially in his 13th year. If he can hold last season’s numbers it would be a great success, even if the average doesn’t improve.
Expect a slight regression, though not enough to warrant the hand wringing it will spawn. Peralta is tasked with playing dependable defense and adding enough muscle to the lineup that he can occasionally change a game.
In that regard, I believe he will be a success.