2018 Prospect Review: Jhonny Pereda

Jhonny Pereda (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jhonny Pereda (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Developments I looked for in 2018

1) Increased strength

2) Improved launch angle and more willingness to turn on pitches he can drive

Season Review

Back in 2015 I had a conversation with John regarding then recent draftees and infield prospects in South Bend. He was most excited about Chesny Young, who we both regarded as a solid low ceiling prospect at the time, but I felt Jason Vosler and David Bote were better long-term projections. I preferred Vosler's size, left-handed bat, and occasional ability to hit the ball with authority rather than Young's narrow frame and high-contact/low-impact approach. As for Bote, I liked his bat speed and the fact that most of the time he made contact it was hard. It just so happened to usually be on the ground and directly at a middle infielder. This was just as launch angle was becoming a thing and unfortunately, at the time I didn't put much conviction behind my evaluations.

But I never forgot the conversation. And when both Vosler and Bote began lifting the ball a couple years later, making themselves into legitimate prospects, it provided me with the confidence that I may just have some idea what I am talking about.

So, what does this have to do with Jhonny Pereda? Well, some of the same skills I noticed about Bote, Vosler (and Young) when they were back in A-ball, I took note of with Pereda despite his uninspiring numbers (.249/.335/.290) while he was at the same level in 2017. Like Vosler, Pereda had an immature frame but one I projected could pack on additional muscle in the coming years. His strong arm behind the plate gave further indication that there was untapped athleticism waiting to be unleashed. Like Young, Pereda showed an opposite field approach with good feel for the strike zone (10.3 BB%) and an ability to easily barrel the ball (16.7 K%, 6.5 SwStr%). But it was his tendency to hit the ball directly into the ground (54.4 GB%) and right at the middle infielders, especially when he hit it with authority, that struck me most because it was classic David Bote.

Jhonny Pereda (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Jhonny Pereda (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Heading into the year I had pegged him as a sleeper prospect I wanted to watch while I waited for the 22-year old to physically mature. I expected it to be a slow build over the course of a couple years, but Pereda came into spring with 10-15 pounds of new muscle and he put it to good use immediately. Originally projected by the organization for a return to South Bend, Pereda continually caught the eye of Myrtle Beach manager Buddy Bailey during the spring, and when it came time build out the Minor League rosters he banged the table to get Pereda assigned to his club.

“Certain guys bring things that are intangibles,” Bailey said. “In Spring Training, he didn’t play on our field much, but when he did, he was always full of energy, doing a good job handling the pitchers, blocking the ball and seeming to hit the ball well.”

“I thought he could handle it here, and what convinced me that he could play here was one day we played the Angels in Spring Training,” Bailey said. “He threw out five base stealing attempts, and a couple of them, you didn’t think he had a chance. But he controlled the game from a defensive aspect as a catcher that day.

Pereda rewarded Bailey's stance by becoming the team's most consistent hitter throughout the 2018 season while also throwing out over 37% of base stealers. He finishing 4th in Carolina League in BB% and K%, 5th in BB/K, and 8th in SwStr% while also making strides with his launch angle and willingness to turn on and drive the ball with authority when opportunities arose.

Positives

There aren't many hitters in the Cubs system with a better idea of the strike zone than Pereda. Even as the rest of his offensive game evolves, he has maintained an above average walk rate between 10-11% each of the past three years. He also manages it while rarely coming up empty when he swings, as he probably rates among the five best contact hitters in the system alongside Nico Hoerner, Mark Zagunis, P.J Higgins, and Chesny Young.

He may have gotten bigger, but power is still not a big part of Pereda's game. He maintains a RCF approach that is a big part of who he is as a hitter, and I don't expect that to change much in the coming years. Double digit home runs and more doubles will happen as he learns to attack and lift the ball in hitter's counts, but at his core I think Pereda will always be more of a line drive rather fly ball hitter.

Pereda's arm strength comes up short in comparison to elite throwers like Willson Contreras, but it is plus, and easily the strongest of the Cubs catching prospects in full season ball. He threw out 37.8% of runners last year, right in line with his 38.8% career mark.

Game calling and a catcher's leadership ability as he handles a staff is difficult to assess at the Minor League level because pitcher development and protection sometimes takes precedent over in-game situations, but given Bailey has praised Pereda's work in this regard I feel it safe to say that there are no major concerns in this area.

Pereda also moves well for a catcher, with plenty of quickness, and close to average running speed. He handles 1B without issue and the Cubs even sent him out at 3B a couple times in 2017. It's not something you would consider, even on a semi-regular basis, but Pereda has enough athleticism to be called upon to handle emergency work beyond C and 1B when necessary.

Negatives

Improvements to his offensive game are more about tweaking his approach in certain scenarios than fixing flaws.

On defense, his footwork is still inconsistent and there is often extraneous movement in his throwing motion he can excise to improve his pop times. His blocking skills and pitch framing are both works in progress, but Pereda possesses the necessary movement skills and soft enough hands to become MLB caliber in both areas.

There is still room on his frame to add additional mass, which could help him hold up to the rigors of catching throughout the course of the season. His numbers fell off a bit in the 2nd half, no doubt due in part to his huge workload increase (2018: 709.2 innings | 2017: 284.0 innings) behind the plate.

Summation

I seem to be on the high end when it comes to future projections for Jhonny Pereda. Some have him pegged as no more than a 3rd catcher, but I think that is more likely his floor, with a semi-regular role at the MLB level as a possibility. There is still untapped potential in his bat with a high probability he captures it. He possesses the necessary MLB caliber tools (hands, feet, arm) behind the plate. Plus, the catching position is currently an offensive wasteland in the Majors. It isn't a high bar to clear.

2019 Outlook

I look for Pereda to continue building upon his breakout 2018 campaign. He'll open the year with AA Tennessee, back in a timeshare with P.J. Higgins, but I expect Pereda eventually wins that battle and receives the bulk of the playing time as the season progresses, with the possibility he ascends to AAA at some point in the 2nd half.

Pereda was Rule 5 eligible this offseason, and went undrafted, but that isn't a shock (or an indictment) given his lack of a track record and experience above A+. I do not expect the Cubs to have the same luxury next offseason, however. It is reasonable to project Pereda becoming the organization's top upper level catching prospect, ahead of both Ian Rice and P.J. Higgins. With a season of AA under his belt, past experience in the AFL, and potentially even a taste of AAA before 2019 ends Pereda will be near the top of the list for 40-man roster additions next fall.

Comments

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  • Thanks, Michael. He has a way to go, but could be a valuable piece either on the Cubs or as trade bait. His work in the Venezuelan league will give him more reps and expose him to other perspectives.

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    Thanks so much. This reminds me so much of the articles John used to write, a prospect not that well known but who we can now pay attention to this year and in the following ones to come.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I appreciate that.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Agree with Jonathan. Very well done from a shortish intro with a personal touch of your own, + a John story... to the actual analysis itself. You made me a believer. Hoping to get to see Jhonny for the Cubbies one day... right after we have traded Willson for Mike Trout. and picks. ;)

    One thing I thought I noticed from the throwing video clips... seemed like when he missed the man at 2B, it was often down (bouncing a throw), and never up... wonder if that's the 'best' way to be bad? Because if you're too high, the fielder has no chance to go up and snag it, whereas if you're too low he's got a chance at least to snag a bouncer? Regardless, hoping he learns to hit the bullseye every time lol.

    Thanks, Michael, good stuff! Fun to read about a scouting moment that seemed to help grow your confidence!

  • It will be interesting which Cubs catching prospects are brought to camp this Spring.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Catcher is different than other positions. Tons of catchers are brought to camp because they need enough guys to be able to handle a half a dozen or so bullpens at a time, as well as any work going on the fields.

    Beyond the 3 on 40-man (Contreras, Caratini, Davis)
    My guess is:
    Rice
    Arcia
    Solis
    Remillard
    Higgins
    Pereda
    Castillo

    They might give Miguel Amaya a look too, at least early on.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Did Solis get re-signed?

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I'm a little unclear on Solis. I saw somewhere he was re-signed, but they were planning to loan him out, but then I also don't see him listed on any of AZ Phil's stuff.
    After they signed Arcia they really don't need him, so whether he is around for ST or not, I doubt he factors in during the season.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'm currently projecting:
    IA: Davis, Rice, Arcia
    TN: Pereda, Higgins, Castillo
    MB: Amaya, Cruz, Balego
    SB: Lorenzo, Guerra, Gonzalez

    Remillard, Payne, Mastrobuoni, G. Amaya will be around as extra org guys to fill any gaps. Knight and Kaleiwahea look to be part of that next wave of extras in case any of the others retire or are released.

    Jonathan Soto and Henderson Perez are a pair of prospects that could challenge for time at SB as well, but for now I am projecting them to Eugene. Soto got some time there last year but struggled and went back to AZL. Perez had a nice AZL season.

  • Happy New Year, everybody! I've been away, kinda depressed with all the negative stories out there (I'm talking to you, The Athletic) about how budgetary constraints are preventing Theo from adding anything meaningful (besides Desclaso) to the team for 2019.

    But down in Florida for the holidays, an old timer gave me his copy of the latest Baseball America publication in which they list (and ably discuss) each team's Top 10 prospects. Maybe this has already been discussed here, but for whatever its' worth, here's BA's top 10 for the Cubs:

    1. Nico Heorner, SS, 21 y.o.
    2. Miguel Amaya C, 19
    3. Brailyn Marquez LHP, 19
    4. Cole Roederer OF, 19
    5. Brennan Davis OF, 19
    6. Alzolay, RHP, 23
    7. Paul Richan, RHP, 21
    8. Cory Abbott, RHP, 23
    9. Justin Steele, LHP, 23
    10. Aramis Ademan, SS, 20

    I admit that I haven't been paying much attention to our prospects the last couple of years, certainly not like I did here from 2012 thru 2015/16, but No. 3 Marquez is a name I don't recall hearing much, or really, anything, about. Mid 90's FB, touching 98. Projected to start 2019 in at low A SB. And the way the write about Brennan Davis and his speed and power potential has me drooling, i.e., "His raw tools give him a chance to become an impact player."

  • In reply to TTP:

    Yeah, my rankings aren't appreciably different than those. I'll have my full list out hopefully by the end of this month.

    Only guy I'm not sure on yet is Richan. I don't have much video on him from college, and his work with Eugene is tough to gauge because he was clearly more advanced than the hitters he was facing.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    As you probably know, but for the benefit of others, BA says Richan: " not flashy . . pounds the zone with 4 pitches . . .low 90s . . . touches 94 . . .profiles as classic innings eater at back of rotation . . . pedigree to jump to directly to High A Mrytle."

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    In reply to TTP:

    Thanks TTP! I had not given much consideration to Richan actually impacting the Cubs big league club, but that sounds like something that might actually have value in a future episode.

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    Speaking of prospects, I saw (on SB Nation) a mock baseball draft for 2019. A little early really, but one of the choices was someone named
    Grae Kessinger. This is Don Kessinger's Grandson! I guess I'm getting really older when the grandchildren of players I saw are being drafted and start playing professional baseball.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Don's nephew Keith Kessinger played a couple of seasons in Iowa in the 90s.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I still have a broken bat he gave me when I was a kid.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That's cool Michael.

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