When the Milwaukee Brewers claimed utilityman Hernan Perez off waivers from the Tigers back in 2015, they did not know that they were getting a waiver claim steal.
Perez is gifted with the ability to play several positions, and provide above average defense at the majority of them. Last year, Milwaukee Brewers fans saw him play a total of seven positions, a number only a handful of players in the Major Leagues can match.
Games played by position in 2016
Third Base: 60 games, .933 fielding percentage.
Right Field: 36 games, .988 fielding percentage.
Second Base: 11 games played, .955 fielding percentage.
Center Field: 8 games played, .933 fielding percentage.
First Base: 6 games played, 1.000 fielding percentage.
Short Stop: 3 games played, 1.000 fielding percentage.
Left Field: 2 games played, fielding percentage N/A
Not only did Perez play almost everywhere, but he did it with a fielding percentage of .933 or better at every position. He did have small sample sizes at a few positions, but he proved himself capable, even with a few chances. The fact that Perez showed consistency around the diamond just shows how useful he truly is.
One big question though, “Is his talent wasted on the bench?” In 2016, Perez didn’t only show impressive defensive numbers, but he proved that when given the opportunity, he could hit as well. He slashed .272/.302/.428 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs in 123 games played.
These stats were put up only when Perez had a clear shot at regular playing time. The situation in Milwaukee has changed in the last year. Now the Brewers have true third basemen in Travis Shaw and a slugging first basemen in Eric Thames. In 2016 the infield corners were not held down by any veteran presence, and that played a large factor in Perez finding his way into the lineup for 123 games.
This year Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell has vowed that he will get Perez enough playing time, but it’s not easy to see where the chances will come from. Perez has shown that he can give the regulars a day off, but the only player in the lineup that will need significantly more rest than anyone is Ryan Braun.
In reality, that is around 25-30 games of playing time, and that’s only if Braun needs that much rest. Add in the days off that will come from other regular starters, and that gives Perez around 70 games. Also, remember that these games are spread out over the entire season. So how is Perez going to be able to stay consistent at the plate if he plays once or twice a week?
You also need to factor in Jesus Aguilar, who is proving that his insane Spring wasn’t a fluke. He seems to be the guy that will get the most starts at first base when Thames needs rest. We also can not forget about Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who can play all three outfield positions with above average defense.
It will be interesting to see how Counsell manages Perez this season. Perez has already seen the field nine times, but his bat has yet to show up. It is too early to tell what this season will bring for the Brewers Swiss army knife, but in the end, Perez will likely help the team in ways that will not show up on a scorecard.