The Curious Case

Anyone can tell you that potential is the most dangerous word in sports. It can be used to express excitement over a particular player or team as in "I can't wait to see what that blue-chip freshman does next season. He has incredible potential."

But that same excitement can also become a source of disappointment when certain expectations aren't met. In cases like this, you hear people say about certain players "He is really having a hard time this season, but my goodness, he has so much potential."

This season, Hurricanes fans have heard plenty of the latter about shortstop turned second baseman Stephen Perez.

The junior from Gulliver Prep came to UM after graduating high school in 2009 to much fanfare. He had been selected in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds in that year's draft, but he left the money on the table to come play for Jim Morris.

Here we are in his third full season as a Hurricane and I think we can all agree that we have yet to see Perez play up to his nearly limitless potential.

The raw tools that scouts have fallen in love with are readily apparent, as they always have been. He shows a knack for making the spectacular defensive play, he is as good a base stealer as UM has when he is running well and he has considerable pop in his bat.

The problems have been with consistency and fundamentals.

Perez's .263 batting average last season is the high-water mark for his career thus far. That's not embarrassingly bad, but it's also not something to write home about. Of bigger concern was the lack of power last season. Granted, power was down across the country as new bat regulations were implemented, but he went from eight home runs as a freshman to just one as a sophomore.

This season has again produced mixed results. His power numbers have jumped back up, as he has three home runs and 17 RBI, both good for second on the team. His average, though, is back down in the .250 range.

Defense is just as big a concern. Not quite halfway through the season, Perez has committed ten errors, putting him just a few errors behind his team-leading totals from the last two full seasons.

Whether you feel it's to his credit or not, head coach Jim Morris has stuck by Perez through it all. As long as he has been healthy, he has been in the starting lineup.

We can argue about Morris' place among college baseball head coaches all-time or even his worthiness as the current head man, but he's no dummy. If he didn't think was helping the team, he wouldn't be playing him.

Morris isn't alone in his faith in Perez's talent, either. For all of his ups and downs, Perez remains a highly-touted prospect ahead of the MLB draft this upcoming June. Some big league team is going to make a bet that they can get Perez to fully realize the potential that I spoke of at the top of this piece.

For now, Hurricane fans are hopeful that Perez can get there before he rides off into the sunset. Time is indeed running short. Working under the assumption that Perez will sign if drafted in the first few rounds of the draft, he only has a couple of months left in a UM uniform. The Hurricanes look like a team capable of making a run back to Omaha. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where Perez is the most important piece of that puzzle. He has the talent to carry a team through a long run. To do that, however, Miami will need him to be the Stephen Perez they have been waiting on this entire time.

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