Players will usually say that they don't think about things like whether or not they're going to be called up to the majors in September. The popular line is something to the effect of 'I can't control that, so I don't even think about it.' When you think about it, that's tough to believe. Let's face it, these guys are in the game to reach the majors, and for most, it's been a lifelong dream. How can they not think about it as they get closer?
Cam Perkins insists that he's like all those other guys who doesn't think about when he's going to be in the majors. Sure, he wants to get there, but hey, he can't control it, so why even think about it, right?
"I try not to think too much about things that are out of my control. It just adds more pressure and that's when you see guys start struggling, if you can just forget about that and just get through that game on that day, it's a lot easier to get through it," said Perkins with a straight face. "Obviously, I'm going to be happy either way, so if I'm here, I'm going to try to help this team win and if I'm there [Philadelphia], I'm going to try to help that team win."
Perkins is hitting 8-44-.288/.324/.422 this season at Lehigh Valley and has hit safely in 15 of the last 19 games, batting .329 over that span. Over his last 41 games, Perkins has hit half of his home runs, driven in 17 runs and is batting .308 for Lehigh Valley. Among his other accomplishments this season, include being the starting right fielder in the Triple-A All-Star Game and putting together a 15-game hitting streak earlier in the season. Perkins has thrown in 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts on the year.
In an age where versatility is becoming more and more important for players like Perkins, who might not be thought of as definite every day players in the majors, Perkins has shown that he can fit into just about any situation. The 25-year old has played all three outfield positions and has hit in every spot in the IronPigs battling lineup throughout the season.
"This is the first year that I've ever played center consistently," explained Perkins. "I had to play there in an emergency sometimes, but playing it every day, I love it. I think it just makes me a better baseball player to play more positions. I've always thought that the more positions that you can play, the more valuable that you are to the team and it's easier to make a lineup or make a roster and that's what I want to do is to be as valuable as possible, as any player does. I think just playing center and getting so much time there has just made me a better ball player."
For a guy who started out as an infielder, Perkins has been better and better each season defensively, choosing to work hard to learn all three spots and make his defense a selling point for bringing him to the majors.
The Phillies are facing a decision on Perkins not just in whether or not to bring him to the majors in September, but whether to place him on the 40-man roster in order to protect him in this year's Rule 5 Draft. With the season that he has assembled, Perkins would be a fairly safe pick for a team to make in the draft, especially given his proven versatility as a player.
While he's not one of the better known prospects in the organization, 2016 has been a big season for Perkins, who has put himself in a good spot for the future. The Phillies could well include him in their September call-ups, especially if they do plan on protecting him this offseason. If not, another team could look to find a way to keep him on their roster for all of next season and grab him in the Rule 5 Draft. Looking back on the season, Perkins is happy with how things have worked out for him this year at Lehigh Valley.
"Just being able to go through the grind. This is my first season where I consistently played all year and didn't miss any time, because it seems like every year, something happens and I'm out four or five weeks, so just being able to go through the process every day and not take a day off, stay healthy and just stay with what's working, and play every day," Perkins said. "It's a lot tougher than most people think, it sounds easy, you get to play baseball every day and it's great, but it's also tough mentally and physically on your body and mind, so to be able to just get through that grind for a whole season has been great for me."
If Perkins doesn't go up on September 1st, he'll be around to help Lehigh Valley through their final five games, which just happen to be against Rochester, the team chasing the IronPigs for the International League wild card. He would also be an important part of the team in the IL playoffs, and Triple-A Championship Game, should Lehigh Valley get there for the first time in franchise history.
"I think this team has been pretty consistent all year about going out there and trying to win the game," pointed out Perkins. "Especially at this level, where everyone is so close to getting called up, sometimes, people tend to just worry about themselves. To be on a team where guys are going out every day and trying to win that game and trying to get to the playoffs is great. Triple-A playoffs and a championship might not mean that much to a lot of people, but it does to us. We're here and we're playing, we might as well win, we're professional baseball players, so we're trying to win every game. It makes it a lot easier to show up every day."
For IronPigs manager Dave Brundage, losing Perkins to the Phillies would be bittersweet.
"Selfishly, I would love for him and all of the guys to stay here through the playoffs," admitted Brundage. "On the other hand, you always love to see young men who have worked as hard as Cam has achieve their dream of playing in the majors, so if that's how it plays out, I'm certainly okay with that and would wish him all the best."
With an overload of outfielders, Perkins is one of those guys on the bubble of whether or not to be protected. For player development director Joe Jordan, Perkins is an interesting case to consider.
"I'm proud of Cam and how hard he has worked to make himself a better player," said Jordan. "He's improved offensively, he's certainly improved defensively, and he never stops working. I think he's put himself in a good position and no matter what happens, I think he's shown a lot just in how he carries himself."