ST Interview: Fernando Perez

PEORIA, AZ - Last year at the end of Spring Training Fernando Perez was destined for the Low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps as the utility infielder who would try to find time behind a loaded prospect laden infield of Franchy Cordero, Josh VanMeter and Dustin Petersen.

This March he left San Diego’s spring training complex as a Top 20 Prospect, the everyday second baseman for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm and a ringing endorsement from new Padres’ farm director Sam Geaney as having “one of the best swings in the minor league camp.”

It’s professional baseball, things change quickly.

In 2014, despite not having a regular position, Perez hit 18 home runs, which was good enough for fourth in the organization, had 95 RBI, which did lead the organization and the Midwest League as he hit .284/.322/.454.

Coming into camp it was time to make sure Fernando had a regular spot as he found himself working exclusively at second base.

“What potential, right,” said Michael Collins, his manager last year with the TinCaps and this season with the Storm.

“I mean, unlimited power potential, one of the quickest bats around. His big focuses this year is just consistency. Putting himself in a good position to hit and give himself a chance more often.”

“Consistency will be his main focus moving forward.”

Perez, 21, was a third round draft pick of the Padres in 2012 out of Central Arizona JC, which is one of the better community college baseball leagues in the country because of it’s use of wood bats as opposed to aluminum (Kyle Blanks is an alumnus of the league).

Perez, who was born in Mexico but moved to the United States in 2010, chose to forgo his senior year of high school at Otay Ranch in Chula Vista, California and graduate early in order to get more exposure from scouts. It worked as he hit .341/.400/.580 at only 18 in his first year and only year at Central Arizona.

“I was definitely going,” said Perez last year in Fort Wayne on if he had any indecision on going into the pros. “That was the plan and the reason why I made the move. I was blessed when it happened.”

He lost most of 2013, his first full season, to multiple wrist surgeries, so last year with the TinCaps was his first full year where he played over 100 games.

“I feel like I had a pretty good year,” Perez said in a break from a workout during camp. “My mindset has always been to get the job done and help my team.”

“The great thing about last year was just being healthy so I could do it.”

Since being drafted Perez has dropped about 25 pounds. He has also greatly increasing his strength and working toward erasing the same perception that Jedd Gyorko also encountered early in his career; a gifted hitter that didn’t really have a defensive position.

“I’ve always liked playing second base and I know what has been said about me being able to play there, but I think I can do it.”

“I read what you guys wrote about me having to move off of second base and I look forward to proving you wrong,” laughed Perez.

“It’s been a big help this year with just playing one position and getting a chance to work on all of the things that come with that position.”

While the Padres are very happy with what he did in the Midwest League they also see a lot more growth potential as well as he only had 25 walks in 494 plate appearances and struck out over a fifth of the time with 106 strikeouts.

“Obviously we would like him to become a little more selective at the plate and put the ball in a play a little more,” said Sam Geaney on Perez. “But there is a lot to really like about what he did, the left-handed swing that he has while playing three different positions.”

While there are greater expectations that come with more attention Perez appears to be the same player that he’s always been, thinking about what is next.

“There are things I can get better at, mainly tightening up my strike zone and getting better defensively, but I also had a pretty good year last season and am going to stick with my routine because it worked.”

Addendum - April 24

Perez got off to a slow start but has began to heat up with five hits in the last three games. He is still a work in progress defensively with four errors in the twelve games he has played at second.

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