Could Perez Provide Answer in the Outfield?

Even though Felix Perez is only in his third minor league season he's already 27 years old. The Yankees thought they'd signed the Cuban defector in 09 as a 20 year-old before he was suspended for falsifying his age. After a slow start to the season his bat is on the rise at AAA. He's now building a case for himself to provide a fifth outfielder and left-handed bat for the Reds bench.

Louisville dropped their second in a row at Wilkes-Barre last night as the Yankees salvaged a split in the four game series. After allowing four runs in the third the Bats pulled to within 5-4 in sixth before the home team hung up another four spot in the bottom of the inning and held on for a 9-7 win. The Bats scoring started with a solo home run by Felix Perez in the second and finished with a three-run shot by Mike Costanzo in the eighth. Costanzo and Willie Harris had two hits each in the losing effort. On the mound Sean Gallagher was roughed up for five runs before he was lifted in the fourth inning and was charged with his fourth loss.

A couple of areas the Reds that's had the Reds searching for answers all season have been outfield depth and a left-handed bat off the bench. After a slow start to the season Perez has gone 10-30 in his last nine games to raise his average to .244. His main struggle has been against southpaws who are holding him below .200 and he's hitting .268 against right-handers. In the outfield he's made only one error in 41 games while throwing out six runners.

Although he's in just his third season of playing in the minor leagues, Perez is already 27 years old-or at least somewhere around that age. The Yankees thought they had signed the Cuban defector to a $3M deal in 2009 as a 20 year-old before MLB suspended him for lying about his age. That deception caused the Bombers to break off talks. After one year he was reinstated and the Reds inked him to a $550k minor league contract in 2010.

Perez started that season on the Reds Dominican League team and was not challenged before coming stateside with a .429 average in 16 games. He played another 16 for high-A Lynchburg where he hit .338. That earned him a promotion to Carolina where he batted .266 for the Mudcats. His performance moved him onto the radars of some ranking services and Baseball America included him Cincinnati's top 30 prospects before the 2011 season.

He returned to Carolina last season and hit .257 before a late season promotion to Louisville. He dropped back off the radar before starting this year at AAA and was hitting only .225 before his bat got hot on June 4. Since that time he's hit safely in seven of nine games with three multi-hit efforts and has gotten on base at a rate of .375.

Normally his stat line would not get a lot of attention for a promotion to the big leagues, but right now he's in a situation without much competition. The Reds hoped that veteran Willie Harris would provide a left-handed bat off the bench when they signed him as a free agent this offseason. He was optioned to Louisville after starting the season 3-37. Later they promoted Mike Costanzo when Scott Rolen went on the DL even though Todd Frazier was already on the roster and two other infield reserves. Costanzo returned to Louisville after going 1-18.

More recently Kristopher Negron was promoted to the Reds when an abdominal strain sidelined Drew Stubbs even though most of his action in the minors has been in the infield. They also picked up MLB veteran Joey Gathright who started this season in an independent league. Currently there are only four outfielders on the Reds roster and one of them is batting .206.

Perez is listed at 6'2"/190#, bats & throws left-handed, and can play all three outfield positions. Before signing Reds scouts felt he had five-tool talent and an impressive work ethic. If hitting for power is part of his game he's yet to show it because his lifetime minor league slugging percentage is below 400. He does make good contact, striking out once every 7.5 plate appearances since arriving at AAA. Unfortunately that does not come from advanced plate discipline because he's walked only once 16.7 PA's over the same period. Perhaps there's an indicator that he's improving because both of those rates are significantly better than what he did at AA.

A lot of mystery comes with prospects out of the Caribbean. Typically their skills are raw with high upside potential. It's no secret the Reds have made considerable effort to tap into that talent. They've hit paydirt with two pitchers on their current roster, Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. In 2008 they reached in their pocket for a couple of teenage outfielders, signing Dominican Juan Duren ($2M) and Venezuelan Yorman Rodriguez ($2.5M). Perez is not on the 40-man roster, so some adjustments would be needed to make room. In the meantime if he continues to hit and other circumstances remain the same he might get a chance to don a Reds uniform sometime this season.

Other News from the Farm:

After rain suspended their game Monday Pensacola had a day off Tuesday and will resume their schedule by opening a home series against Mobile on Wednesday.

Bakersfield split a double header at Stockton. The Ports took the first one 9-5 by scoring in five of the six innings they batted. Justice French was roughed up for six runs before he left the game in the third. He is now 0-2 since his promotion from Dayton.

The Blaze came to win the second game to win 4-1. Josh Smith threw a four-hit, seven-inning complete game and allowed only run while striking out nine and walking none to pick up his fifth win. Billy Hamilton and Theo Bowe got the job done at the top of the lineup with three and two hits respectively. Niko Vasquez and Jaren Matthews added two hits each including Matthew's first home run which gave the Blaze a 1-0 lead in the second. After tearing up the Midwest League with a .329 batting average Kurtis Muller returned to Bakersfield and went 0-3.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton reached first on single in the third inning of the first game yesterday and did not have an open base in front of him. The next inning he walked and advanced to second on an error from a pickoff attempt. In the second game he singled in the third and was successfully picked off first. He singled in the fifth and was thrown out trying to steal second. He singled again in the seventh and took second on his only steal of the day. He he's now successfully stolen 73 of 89 attempts over 63 games.

Dayton fell behind 6-2 at Great Lakes when the Loons scored five in the third before holding on for a 6-4 win. Juan Perez had two hits for the Dragons and Travis Buckley added a two-run homer. Stalin Gerson was charged for the loss after he allowed six runs in five innings. Dan Jenson and El'Hajj Muhammad combined for three innings of scoreless relief.

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