Mariners' Perez Jr. crushes 448-foot homer in AFL

October 15th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Robert Perez Jr. was sitting on a heater. The Mariners’ No. 21 prospect dug into the box in the top of the second to get his first cut of the night and one pitch later, his approach allowed him to clobber the offspeed – 448 feet per Statcast, to be specific, deep onto the berm in left field.

The clout was the longest measured home run hit this fall, although Statcast is only available at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

“You actually [don’t] feel anything in the bat or the hands,” Perez said of the moment of impact. “It’s super awesome, it’s the best feeling as a hitter. I was really happy and enjoyed it.”

It’s not often that the eager young spectators that camp out beyond the outfield fences during Fall League action have to run back up the hill to corral a home run ball, but Perez’s tater – which left the bat at 109.6 mph – was a welcome gift. The 22-year-old added a rocket RBI single back up the middle in the third, which sent the Salt River pitcher hurtling out of the way; he finished Friday with three RBIs to pace the Javelinas in a 6-4 win over the Rafters at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

While Perez was impressed with the homer’s distance when told of it postgame, he knew that he had hit balls even farther in the past. That confidence in his power emerged this season when he swatted 27 roundtrippers between Single-A Modesto and High-A Everett, posting a .523 slugging percentage in the process.

Upon the promotion to High-A in August, Perez’s numbers took off. He swatted a homer in his first game with the AquaSox and never looked back, slashing .342/.477/.583 over his final 35 contests. Even when facing an elevated level of pitching, he racked up a 194 wRC+ while cutting down on his strikeouts and upping his walk rate.

“Honestly, I just enjoyed it; it was a good moment for me,” Perez said of joining Everett. “I felt happy and most of the guys there, I met them before. So it was a good experience and I was trying to have fun and [you] see the success.”

Bringing a scorching bat to the Fall League immediately paid dividends. While teammate Bryan Woo (Mariners No. 15 prospect) stole the show with four no-hit frames on AFL Opening Day for Peoria on Oct. 3, it was Perez who walloped a go-ahead three-run home run in the ninth. Through nine games, the first baseman has amassed an .884 OPS and is one of four batters on the circuit to notch double-digit RBIs through Friday’s action.

Known for his tremendous raw power and aggressive approach, Perez parlayed his attributes into a 114-RBI campaign this past year, which tied for second across the Minors. The native of Venezuela initially struggled in his stateside debut with the organization in 2019, striking out in 33% of his at-bats at Modesto with just a .704 OPS. But further acclimation, increased reps and hard work lead to a comfortability that has allowed him to plate runners in droves.

“As soon as you go up, you see better pitchers,” Perez said of shifting levels. “I faced a couple guys [at High-A] that are [in the AFL].”

One of the players whom Perez played alongside with the AquaSox was outfielder Alberto Rodriguez (Seattle’s No. 14 prospect), who batted cleanup for Peoria in the victory. He delivered an RBI single in the top of the third that gave the Javelinas a lead they would never relinquish. Southpaw Jorge Benitez – who was promoted to High-A alongside Perez on Aug. 2 – worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, notching his second hold of the AFL.