Jose Peraza’s surprising promotion makes sense, if he stays for a bit

Howie Kendrick‘s injury could prove to keep him out awhile. It isn’t the first time in his career he has missed time due to a left hamstring injury. Fortunately, the Dodgers have a couple of capable fill-ins. Who ultimately fills that role remains to be seen.

Jose Peraza, 21, was recalled from Triple-A on Monday and made his first career start in the majors. I will admit, it was surprising and aggressive to see the Dodgers opt for Peraza. Sure, he’s anywhere from a Top 30-50 prospect in baseball, but he wasn’t have a banner year in Triple-A with the Braves or the Dodgers and there are questions about his long-term viability as a starter. But hey, this front office has known to be a little aggressive and different from the previous regime, especially when it comes to young players.

On the flip side, you have Enrique Hernandez, who has been valuable bench piece for the Dodgers. He has a 1.3 fWAR in 139 plate appearances. His 138 wRC+ is better than Andre Ethier‘s, Joc Pederson‘s, Scott Van Slyke‘s, Kendrick’s and Yasiel Puig‘s. Yes, it’s a limited sample size and most of his damage has come against left-handed pitchers, but Hernandez obviously has enough ability to at least be given a shot to be a full-time player in the majors. Oh, and he turns 24 later this month.

The two are similar players on defense in terms of profile, not necessarily skill-set. Both have displayed versatility in the minors — both have played second base, shortstop and center field. Hernandez is a bit different because he also has experience in the corner outfield spots and third base (both in the minors and majors). While he is a average-to-solid-average defender at every position he plays, Peraza has the edge at second base. Signed as a shortstop, Peraza moved to second base because Andrelton Simmons will play shortstop in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. There were also questions about Peraza’s arm strength for shortstop, so a move to second base seemed only natural. He projects to be a plus-defender at the position.

Offensively, Hernandez has the clear edge. He has more power potential, ability to walk and is just a better overall hitter. Peraza is more of a contact-oriented hitter whose on-base percentage is going to be directly tied to his batting average and BABIP. Hernandez will fill up his slash line with some on-base and slugging. Peraza will be lucky to post better than a .700 OPS in his career — and that isn’t a bad thing. Think Dee Gordon, but right-handed.

I thought Hernandez would get the first shot at filling the second base void because of his offensive potential. It’s also his “natural” position. But Hernandez also has the blessing (some may say curse) of being a versatile player. He can fill a number of positions well enough on both sides that his value is even higher. If he is pigeon-holed into playing just one position, he’ll still be valuable, but his overall impact on the team could be diminished slightly. While he was a bit too shallow on Jayson Werth‘s 2-run double on Monday night, he’s the only true backup center fielder the Dodgers have at this rate. I’m still of the opinion Puig would be OK out there, but I’m not sure Don Mattingly and the front office agree.

The more I think about it, the more having Peraza there makes sense — as long as he’s here for an extended period of time. With Justin Turner due back later this week and his ability to play second base (not well), Peraza could very well be headed back to Oklahoma City. If that’s the case, the Dodgers should have just recalled a guy like Andy Wilkins or Scott Schebler, left Peraza in Triple-A and let Hernandez play second base for a few days. I don’t think the front office would have recalled Peraza just to have him play for a few days and go back down. Then again, they did that with Schebler, and it was for just one game.

Alberto Callaspo will also take some grounders at second base in an attempt to increase his utility to the Dodgers. But if Callaspo is starting at either second- or third base while a guy like Hernandez or Peraza sit on the bench/is in Triple-A, that’s a mistake. Callaspo hasn’t been God-awful, but doesn’t have nearly the upside Hernandez and Peraza do.

Turner is a career -15.4 UZR/150 (in more than 940 innings) defender at second base, while Callaspo is -16.3 (almost 2,400 innings). Either of them getting any kind of extended look at second base would be a mistake.

Just how much time has Kendrick missed with the injury? Here’s a breakdown:

  • 2008: 42 games, 46 days
  • 2008: 25 games, 27 days
  • 2011: 14 games, 15 days

He also missed one game last season due to the injury. Obviously, that was minor. Kendrick is gone for at least 14 more days. I’m not sure I can take 10-plus games of Callaspo playing everyday or Turner playing second base. I’m not sure the Dodgers can take it. Not to mention Turner is a plus-defender at third base this season (2.9 UZR/150, 6 DRS).

Until Kendrick returns, Peraza should be the full-time starter with Hernandez to continue to spell the likes of Pederson in center field and Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. And if Hernandez got a start at second, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It would also give the powers that be a glimpse of what Peraza can do in the majors — not dissimilar to Pederson’s cup of coffee last year (admittedly, under a different regime). But if Peraza is going back to Triple-A later this week, I’m not really sure what the point of the promotion was.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.