CINCINNATI -- There's a common belief in Major League Baseball that if a player can really hit but doesn't have a set position to play, a team will find room for him in its lineup one way or another. Injuries to regulars Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton have been one way to get José Peraza daily at-bats.
Next season, the Reds will have to figure out another way. That's because Peraza, at 22, is demonstrating daily that he can handle whatever big league pitchers have to offer. In Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Mets, Peraza collected another four hits -- including a bases-loaded two-out double in the eighth inning -- as he filled in for a resting Cozart at shortstop.
In 17 games since he was recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 20, Peraza is batting .484 (30-for-62) with 10 multihit efforts and three four-hit games -- his career high. Overall in his 50 big league games for Cincinnati, Peraza is batting .347/.376/.427 with two home runs, six doubles and 16 RBIs.
"This guy certainly looks like he's capable of being a regular, everyday player," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Now it's just a matter of finding his best spot and where he best serves the team. He can serve our team in a lot of different ways."
After playing sparingly during his previous two callups, including a six-week span in June and July, an injury to Cozart prompted Peraza's return last month. On Sunday, Hamilton went down with a strained left oblique and could miss several days, possibly the rest of the season.
Peraza has started at every spot in the lineup except third, fourth or fifth. He's played shortstop, second base, left field and center field, and he was once the designated hitter.
"I've been working really hard no matter where I am -- the eighth hole or if I lead off," Peraza said via translator Julio Morillo. "Yesterday wasn't a good game for me [0-for-4]. Before today, I watched videos and made the adjustments I had to make and had a really good game today."
The reason Peraza had to wait his turn earlier this season was a lack of a spot. With Cozart at shortstop, Brandon Phillips at second base, Adam Duvall in left field and Hamilton in center field, Peraza sat. Looking ahead, Cozart is arbitration-eligible this winter after he was the subject of summer trade rumors. Phillips is owed $14 million in 2017, the final year of his six-year contract, and he has full no-trade rights.
Seemingly, one of the middle infielders would have to go for Peraza to play regularly next season. The Reds could explore trading either player and try again to get Phillips to approve a deal, which he declined to do this past offseason.
"[Peraza is] facing really good pitching and hitting the ball right on the screws," Price said. "He's doing a super job, he's bringing energy. He's aggressive on the bases. He's a guy who can bunt for a base hit; he can do a lot of things.
"He's making the most of some opportunity that's been there with the need to fill Billy's shoes, and the time I've been able to give him in the middle infield when Zack's been out. He's done a really nice job with it."