MILWAUKEE -- After hitting a home run on Saturday and Sunday against the Giants, Reds shortstop Jose Peraza extended his career-high total to eight for the season. Teammates in the Cincnnati clubhouse are surprised by his recent flashes of power, and so has Peraza."Yeah, it's a big surprise for me,"
MILWAUKEE -- After hitting a home run on Saturday and Sunday against the Giants, Reds shortstop Jose Peraza extended his career-high total to eight for the season. Teammates in the Cincnnati clubhouse are surprised by his recent flashes of power, and so has Peraza.
"Yeah, it's a big surprise for me," Peraza said. "[Hitting coaches] Tony [Jaramillo] and Don Long asked me, 'How many home runs did you hit in the Minor Leagues?' My best one is [four] homers. [They said,] 'You can hit, I think, more, because now you're working to use more of your legs.' I think that's the reason."
Peraza, whose 83.6 mph average exit velocity is ranked in the bottom 2 percent of the Majors, believes that using his legs more during work in the batting cage has allowed him to get a bigger jump to the ball off the bat. His hard-hit rate of 22.7 percent hasn't really gone up lately, but he has hit three of his seven barreled balls this season have come in August, all three for homers. Peraza's two home runs over the weekend are examples of his newfound pop. His two clouts against the Giants had exit velocities of 105.9 and 102.1 mph, respectively.
Last season, Peraza had five homers for Cincinnati, and he hit 11 homers for his entire Minor League career. The 24-year-old entered Monday against the Brewers batting .292/.334./.412 with 42 RBIs, and his 27 walks are already more than the 20 he had for all of 2017.
The increased contact and power have not caused Peraza in terms of more strikeouts. His 10.4 percent strikeout rate is fifth lowest among qualified hitters. And his 5.1 walk percentage, while still on the low end, it is up from 2.7 percent in 2016 and 3.9 percent in '17.
"I just try to put a good swing on the ball," Peraza said. "Sometimes I make a bad decision and sometimes I feel really good."
When he goes after pitches in the strike zone, Peraza usually puts the ball into play. According to Statcast™'s lowest whiff rate on in-zone swings this season, Peraza's 6.5 percent is fourth-lowest among 216 qualified batters with a minimum of 400 in-zone swings. He is third in the Majors in highest in-plate rate on swings in the zone at 60.4 percent.
"Hitting is not easy. It's really hard," Peraza said. "Sometimes you feel really good and you get a lot of hits. Sometimes you've got like 14 at-bats without any hits. Good contact, you take it."
One person not so surprised by Peraza's recent power -- and improved season in general -- is Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman.
"Physically, he's a 200-pound guy. He's a strong guy," Riggleman said. "What I keep thinking about is the year '16 when he came up here, he hit [.324]. And it wasn't 100 at-bats, it was closer to 300 at-bats. I think he's got a lot of hitting ability with strength. When you have hitting ability, you're probably going to hit a few. As he gets older, and even more physically strong, he's probably going to end up being a guy who hits 15-18 a year."
Gennett could play first base
Monday marked the fourth game the Reds played without first baseman Joey Votto, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a lower right leg contusion. Brandon Dixon started his second game in Votto's place, including the opener against Milwaukee, while regular catcher Tucker Barnhart started the other two.
Riggleman planned to mix and match at first base until Votto is eligible to return on Sunday. He didn't rule out giving second baseman Scooter Gennett a start there, especially if it enables a chance for backup infielder Dilson Herrera to see action, as well.
"I could see Scooter going there," Riggleman said. "When I played Tucker there, I thought about playing Scooter there instead. But we hadn't talked about it or worked with Scooter on it at all. I'd like to get Herrera a few more at-bats, not just against left-handed pitching but right-handed pitching. That might be an opportunity where Scooter could play some at first and Herrera would play second. If we're going to do it, we're going to do it this week because this is the week that Joey is down."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.