KANSAS CITY -- As the Royals ponder a possible rebuild in 2018 and beyond, there is one rock solid piece who will be vital next season: catcher Salvador Perez."The truth is," one rival scout said, "the Royals are not the same team when Salvy isn't there. He has a presence
KANSAS CITY -- As the Royals ponder a possible rebuild in 2018 and beyond, there is one rock solid piece who will be vital next season: catcher Salvador Perez.
"The truth is," one rival scout said, "the Royals are not the same team when Salvy isn't there. He has a presence on defense and at the plate."
Fans saw that last season. When Perez was sidelined because of an intercostal strain in August, the Royals, who had been in the hunt for an American League Wild Card spot, lost considerable ground and went 6-9 in his absence.
"There's no doubt what kind of impact Salvy has for us," manager Ned Yost said this summer. "His bat is a big part of our lineup. And he can do so many things defensively that help us."
It's indeed true that Perez, 27, who signed a five-year, $52.5 million extension in 2016, is a major force in the Royals' lineup. Scouts continue to see him as an ascending player.
Perez had won four straight AL Gold Glove Awards before losing out to the Angels' Martin Maldonado this season. But Perez remains one of the top defensive catchers in baseball and, if he remains healthy, likely is a Hall of Fame candidate.
Perez continues to improve at the plate as well. He posted a .792 OPS in 2017, his highest since 2012. He also posted career highs in home runs (27) and RBIs (80).
Backup catcher Andrew Butera marvels at Perez's skill set.
"You just don't find many catchers who can do all the things he can do offensively and defensively," Butera said this summer. "It's pretty special to watch him every day."
Perez's presence especially will be important as the Royals ponder that possible rebuild.
Perez likely will move up in the middle of the order and hit perhaps cleanup in the absence of free agents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain.
"What Salvy has shown is that he can change a game with one swing," Yost noted. "You just never know what you'll get when he is at the plate, and if you're in a close game, opposing pitchers have to be careful with him -- one mistake can cost you the game. We've seen that time and time again."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.