CINCINNATI -- Like several of his Reds teammates, shortstop Jose Peraza decided that his offseason base needed to be at the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Peraza's reasons were both professional and personal."My wife is pregnant," said Peraza, who is from Venezuela. "I wanted to stay close to
CINCINNATI -- Like several of his Reds teammates, shortstop Jose Peraza decided that his offseason base needed to be at the team's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Peraza's reasons were both professional and personal.
"My wife is pregnant," said Peraza, who is from Venezuela. "I wanted to stay close to her, work out in the morning and then stay the rest of the day with my wife. I like Arizona. It has good weather."
When he is at the complex, Peraza is focused on building his core strength, especially his left side muscles. He's been doing a lot of weightlifting and training because he wants to keep feeling stronger.
"It's what I did last year. I like working hard, hard, hard, and it feels good," Peraza said this month.
Partially because he struggled during 2017, Peraza was often written off before last season and sometimes overlooked even as he performed well.
With his improved strength, Peraza quietly improved his hitting skills and produced throughout 2018. Still only 24, he batted .288/.326/.416 with 14 home runs, 58 RBIs, 23 steals and a 97 OPS+ over 157 games. He was valued at 2.3 wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference.
Peraza's 182 hits were the most by a Reds shortstop since Felipe Lopez had 169 hits in 2005 and were three shy of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin's club record for a shortstop that was set in 1990.
Meanwhile, Peraza was also one of the hardest hitters to strike out in 2018. His 11 percent strikeout rate and 9.1 plate appearances-per-strikeout topped all National League hitters.
In 2017, Peraza opened as the regular second baseman and replaced Brandon Phillips. It went poorly as he slashed .259/.297/.324 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 143 games. Just after the All-Star break, Peraza lost his role to Scooter Gennett. But he finished stronger in the second half, often filling in for an injured Zack Cozart.
Once Cozart left as a free agent, the shortstop job was Peraza's. Cozart was an All-Star for both his offense and defense during his final season in Cincinnati.
Peraza, the only Reds infielder who did not make the NL All-Star team this year, is aware there's an area where bigger leaps of improvement are required.
"I need to work more on my defense, and that's what I'm doing in Arizona. I'm working with [Rookie-level AZL Reds manager] Jose Nieves," Peraza said.
According to FanGraphs, Peraza had minus-2 defensive runs saved and a minus-3.6 ultimate zone rating. In standard fielding statistics, Peraza's 22 errors led all Major League shortstops and his .962 fielding percentage ranked at the bottom among qualified shortstops.
Peraza is not resting on the achievements he made last season.
"I feel good, but I need to work more," Peraza said. "Last season is in the past. I want to focus on next year and keep moving forward. I'm working as hard as possible to be better every day and every season."
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.