Name: Robert Perry
DOB: October 3, 1984
Coming out of Long Beach State, considered one of the top college baseball programs in the country, and the first Dirtbag to be drafted in 2007, Perry entered the Padres system with a workmanlike approach and well-rounded game. Playing at one of the top schools in the country prepared him for top competition day in and day out.
He went out to Arizona and the rookie league, hitting .391 over 16 games with 11 extra base hits and 22 runs scored, leading the AZL Padres to a 10-6 record before they tanked the rest of the season – going 18-21 without his services at the top of the lineup.
"Perry had surprising power," former AZL manager and current roving hitting instructor Tony Muser said. "He had pop in his bat. He is a polished college kid who played with a lot of confidence. Perry was a good little leadoff hitter. He was further ahead than the high school kids and just knew how to play."
He reached base safely in each game and had a hit in 15 of 16, drawing 10 walks compared to six strikeouts while also getting plunked five times for an impressive .506 on-base percentage.
Perry also added nine steals in 12 attempts in the desert.
"When Robert got there I told him, ‘I am going to check you out and see how you are doing and if you are doing well you won't hear too much from me. I am not going to try and fix anything if it ain't broke,' former AZL Padres hitting coach Manny Crespo said. "That is what it was. With the aluminum (bat) you have better contact more often and that is something he learned. Down here, there was no competition for him. He would have tore up this league had they left him down here."
He was shipped to High-A Lake Elsinore because of need and didn't embarrass himself, batting .259 with a .326 on-base percentage across 19 games, adding eight more extra base hits along the way. Perry finished the season with his third team, hitting .273 across 28 games with the Fort Wayne Wizards.
In total, Perry batted .300 with a .409 OBP across three leagues and 63 games. He tallied 25 extra base hits and drew more walks (34) than strikeouts (31). He also stole 18 bases in 25 attempts.
"He knows how to play," Padres former minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "He is a polished college player."
Perry does all the little things right. He is a solid situational hitter than sprays balls to all parts of the field and proved he could turn on a good, inside fastball, sending six balls over the fence. He also has good speed and can lay down the bunt just as easily as he can line a ball into the gaps.
"The pop – he might be a little guy but if you give him a pitch he can sit on it," Crespo added. "He can get the bat head out there. They played him like a little slap hitter and he put some body into it.
"He has a good short stroke, a good approach to the game, and that is why he wasn't with us long."
A left-handed hitter, Perry plays with a lot of confidence – as his Long Beach State background ensures. A polished hitter in many facets, Perry never shied away from the challenge of skipping two leagues and performed admirably.
Blessed with a compact stroke and solid plate awareness, Perry would work the count in his favor and sit on a pitch. When he was ahead in the count, he rarely missed – but it had to be the pitch he was looking for. Rarely would he fish for a pitch outside the zone in favorable situations. While teams were playing him as a slap hitter, he would belt balls off the fence for extra base hits – netting six triples with his plus speed and aggressiveness.
He has a level swing that is short to the ball and generates good bat speed, making the ball jump off the stick. The big thing is Perry does not try to hit for power but with a solid core to turn on the ball and allowing his legs to do the work, he can drop the bat head through the zone and gains explosion as a result.
"Great guy, very competitive," former Fort Wayne and current AZL Padres hitting coach Bob Skube said. "He really wants to learn during the game, even when he is not in it. He constantly was coming up to me and pointing out things the opposition was doing in hopes that he could help some of our own hitters out.
"He has a lot of talent. Anytime you put him into the game, you expect him to do something to help you win that game."
During his college career, the coaching staff made all the players train with wooden bats to get better control. Instead of being able to smack a ball off the end of the bat and get a double, it taught Perry to square the ball up. When he would go back to the aluminum stock, the hits came even easier.
Perry has experience playing all three outfield positions and shows good range. His natural position is centerfield but he shifted to left field at times within the Padres' system
He has above-average speed but is a newcomer to the stolen base game. In college, Perry wasn't asked to swipe bags and now must play catch-up. Understanding tendencies and picking up on a pitcher's move will make him a better stolen base threat in the future. He will get caught leaning, and he has taken an extra steps before making his turn towards second base, slowing him by a hair.
ETA: Perry has a little bit of an uphill climb with the depth in the outfield, specifically names that have been drafted in higher slots. By showing he was capable in the California League in his first year and flashing good speed throughout the year, however, Perry should get plenty of at-bats. This year will explain where he stands in the bigger scheme.