My prospect profiles usually fall into two sometimes unevenly split halves. One discusses the player. The other half provides the inspiration for the article. As much as I want to inform you of the player’s history, I am somewhat muted in wanting to prognosticate his future, which hasn’t been written yet. Sometimes, a player ended his season on a hot streak, or in a bitter slump. Guessing whether the one or the other is indicative of the future, necessarily, is beyond my realm of knowledge. However, something in their past, or presumed future, segues into a bigger story that applies, whether success looms, or not. Today’s look provides a quality backstory, a curious 2021, and something to assess for 2022, complete with cobinations and permutations. Here is my look at Yonathan Perlaza
Yonathan Perlaza, right field
Born November 10, 1998, Paramo Tucani, Venezuela
Signed by the Cubs as an international free agent
Whether it is drilled into your psyche yet, or not, the Cubs enjoy selecting “up the middle” talent, and love selecting shortstops. Perlaza was one of them, signed for a $1.3 million bonus in July 2015. As the years progressed, Perlaza was less and less likely to be a useful professional shortstop. He had a penchant for bad defensive stretches, and tended to take those bad defensive plays into the batters’ box with him, which wasn’t a good mix. By 2021, Perlaza had become an outfielder.
On July 14, 2021, Perlaza was 0-for-3 on the day. His batting average fell to .222, and his OPS staggered to .677. Not terrible, but certainly not brag-worthy. For the rest of the High-A Central season, very few hitters would be better than Perlaza. For whatever reason, the lightbulb started to go on. He would have a hit in his next 13 games, and was much more likely to have two or more hits in a game than none the rest of the way, batting .345/.399/.601 with nine home runs in 47 games. For awhile, I considered him on my potential 40-man roster list, until talked out of it. Perlaza was now a thing, again.
This winter, he has hit reasonably well for Zulia in the Venezuelan League, despite being far younger than most of the league’s pitchers. Since the MLB Rule 5 Draft won’t take place until after the lockout is solved, a question is begged. How aggressive should teams be regarding professionally scouting minor league ball, if the minor leagues resume before the lockout is concluded? The Cubs will have the seventh selection. Their deadline to decide is usually the second Thursday in December. This time, the decision day will be far later.
Baseball blogs are at a difficult spot. While most want to read uplifting stuff about popular players, or potential moves, most transactions of interest are off-limits. Hawking articles of “mutual interest between the Cubs and Carlos Correa” are all good, but no moves are permitted until after the lockout concludes. The actual decisions that matter are cloudier and murkier than major league trades or signings, which can’t happen right now. What can happen is a team deciding how to locate scouts to properly assess players that might be playing in actual games before the lockout concludes.
Are there players the Cubs ought to be laser-focusing on, in other organizations? Should other teams look at options like Perlaza, Andy Weber, and other Cubs Rule 5-eligibles? Know thine rival.