Here's why Fermin's emergence at the plate shouldn't surprise

August 6th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Only one catcher in all of Major League Baseball is hitting above .300 with at least 140 at-bats.

He plays for the Royals, but it isn’t Salvador Perez. It isn’t even MJ Melendez. It’s . Just like everyone expected.

The 28-year-old rookie stayed hot on Saturday night, clubbing two home runs for the first time in his career during the Royals’ 9-6 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Kansas City’s longest winning streak in six years ended at seven games, but Fermin’s breakout season continued. It was the Venezuelan’s seventh multi-hit effort in his past 10 games, a stretch during which he has hit .472.

There’s at least one person unsurprised at Fermin’s recent success.

“To be honest, he came in right from the start and swung the bat tremendously well,” said manager Matt Quatraro. “He’s been pretty consistent for us. A little more power than I probably would have expected, but overall he’s had really quality at-bats throughout.”

After a week in which so much went right, Fermin was the only Royal to record more than one hit on Saturday. His first home run was on a 2-0 sinker from left-hander Cristopher Sánchez that he smoked to left-center field to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the second inning. After seeing only sinkers in his first at-bat, Fermin took advantage of a 1-1 changeup from Sánchez and lofted it into the left-center-field seats again to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fourth.

“He did an amazing job,” said , who allowed three runs over four innings in his return to the rotation. “Especially with his home runs. Then behind the plate talking, calling the game and seeing what was working. ”

During his seven years in the Royals’ Minor League system, Fermin became known for his throwing arm, fielding and his work with young pitchers, many of whom are now with him on the big club. On Saturday, he encouraged Marsh to lean more on his curveball and changeup after Alec Bohm crushed a slider to left to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead before the rookie right-hander even retired a batter.

“Those were just the conversations we had between innings,” Marsh said. “That gave me a little confidence knowing that we were going to attack these guys this way and save the slider for only certain situations.”

Fermin, who did not make the Opening Day roster, has started seven of the last nine games behind the plate. The move was made necessary after injuries to Vinnie Pasquantino and Nick Pratto forced Perez to spend a majority of time at first base.

Perez is a legend in Venezuela and someone who Fermin looks up to. His advice to his backup has been straightforward.

“Prepare yourself every day because you never know when you’re going to play the game,” Perez said. “Be ready every day for the opportunity and try to do the best you can do.”

Fermin has done just that, but it doesn’t mean there's any doubt brewing about who remains the primary catcher behind the plate in Kansas City.

“Salvy’s still our primary catcher, he’s earned that, he deserves that,” Quatraro said. “Freddy’s done a tremendous job both offensively and defensively. We are going to find ways to get him in there.”

Fermin’s .538 slugging percentage ranks second among MLB catchers who have played at least 40 games. He has homered four times since July 23, equaling the number he had in the entire first half of the season.

“I’m learning every day,” Fermin said. “Creating a good plan trying to hit and working in the cage and outside.”

The fact that Fermin is learning and working hard is no surprise to those who have watched him grow this season, and during his long journey through the Royals’ farm system.

“He’s a very mature player and he goes out and competes very hard,” said Dairon Blanco, who played with Fermin at Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. “We’ve known each other for a long time throughout the Minor Leagues. We have great chemistry. We work out together, we’re in the cage together. When things go well, I look at how much time we’ve spent together and it’s a joy.”