Name: Daniel Perales
Weight: 175 lbs
History: Daniel Perales was mostly a defensive-minded outfielder until his last season with USC. He finally began to swing the bat with authority in 2006, but he nevertheless fell to the 22nd round of that year's draft.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are glad that he did. When evaluating a player from a school like USC, you can't judge his stats the same as someone who plays against a bunch of community colleges.
"We faced a lot of really good pitching up and down the conference," Perales told FutureBacks. "We matched up with a couple of first rounders, [including] one who's in the big leagues now with Seattle, [Brandon] Morrow. The whole mentality and approach to the game was a lot different than high school, especially playing against good competition like that. The good pitching kind of helped discipline myself at the plate and learn as a player."
Perales has obviously used the lessons he's learned at USC to succeed in pro ball. After a good showing in Rookie-ball last year, Perales had a hot-and-cold start to the 2007 season. He then rallied for a .304 batting average after the All-Star break (.348 in August), and wound up leading the entire Diamondbacks organization with 92 RBI.
"When you see pitchers again for the third and fourth time, you've already seen what they've got," Perales said to explain his successful second half. "You know how they're going to work you depending on the situation. You kind of start picking their mind, and figuring out what their pitchers are, and where they're going to work you, where they don't want to throw the ball to you. So you start predicting what they're going to bring to the table."
Perales would even improve his approach to pitchers within an individual game. Perales batted .174 without a homer in 94 first-inning at bats last year. After the second inning, Perales got base hits at a .337 clip. This ability to learn and improve, both within a game and over the course of the season, makes this low-round draft pick a legitimate prospect, even in an organization teeming with young outfielders.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Batting and Power: Perales' first inning numbers tell us that he wasn't particularly well-suited as the Silver Hawks' leadoff hitter, a role he gladly took on for the team. But Perales slugged .549 when he hit third and .507 in the #5 hole. He's not a big guy, and only has line drive power, but these numbers suggest that Perales is more suited to being a run producer than a table-setter.
"I prefer hitting in the middle of the order," Perales admitted. "It suits me well. Especially in the five hole, you get a lot of opportunities for RBIs."
His position in the batting order can also fool opposing defenses. Most middle-of-the-order guys are dead-pull hitters. Not Perales. He has a beautiful opposite field swing that can catch defenders out of position and burn pitchers who try to work him away.
"That took a lot of work to get that opposite field swing, going with the pitch, especially. I really worked on that with my hitting coach (Jeff Young). Just really taking that outer half away, because a lot of the pitchers like to stay away with me. Once they realize that they can't go away, then there's really nowhere to go."
"[Perales] understands pitch selection, understands pitch sequences, and what pitchers are trying to do to him," said Mark Haley, Perales' manager at South Bend. "If they're going to throw him away, he'll go with it, and that's the sign of a quality hitter, especially at this level."
Base Running and Speed: Perales has good speed, but not the jets of a prototypical leadoff hitter. He nevertheless led the Silver Hawks in runs scored, not only because he was on base over 200 times, but also because he is very opportunistic on the base paths. The entire Diamondbacks organization, and Mark Haley in particular, preach aggressiveness in their young players. Perales took that to heart all season long, stretching singles into doubles, doubles into triples, and advancing on outs.
He's not likely to steal many bases at the major league level, particularly if he does hit lower in the order, but his base running acumen is nevertheless a big part of what Perales brings to the table.
Defense: Perales has good range and an impressive outfield arm. The only reason he predominately manned left field for the Silver Hawks is that teammates Joey Side and Gerardo Parra are two of the best defensive outfielders in the system.
"It's fun playing left field, because a lot of teams don't expect you to have a strong arm," Perales confided. "But I never really played left field [in college], I played predominately center and right field. So a lot of guys try to run on you and what not, and it's like, surprise!"
Five of Perales' last seven starts of the year were in right field, with Parra having been promoted to Visalia. Perales also patrolled center in nine games, giving Side the occasional breather. He's starting to hit well enough to play left field, but Perales was happy to remind developmental staff that he has the necessary tools to man the other outfield positions.
"I feel pretty comfortable everywhere now in the outfield, but it helps having a strong arm in left field, that's for sure."
Major League Clone: Reed Johnson
Prediction: Perales is extremely versatile on both sides of the ball. Because he does so many things well, do not be surprised if he eventually vaults some of the outfield prospects ahead of him and lands a role as the Diamondbacks' fourth outfielder.
"He's very polished with what he wants to do, and I see a lot of good things coming out of him," praised Haley.
ETA: 2011. That assumes a steady one-level-per-season ascension through a very competitive system, and would mean a big league debut at age 26, often a peak age for ballplayers. But if Perales can continue to improve himself at the rate that he did in 2007, he will reach the majors before then, and possibly play himself into a more involved role.
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