Like every other team in Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians employ numerous players throughout their organization, from the big-league club in Cleveland to their rookie league team in Arizona and beyond. And like every other Major League franchise, the Indians add and subtract from this player pool on a regular basis. This irregular series will serve to post notice when a former Indians player has done something noteworthy with a quick look back at the player’s time in Cleveland.
Player: Jhonny Peralta
Current Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Years in Indians Organization: Signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1999. Played for the Tribe from 2003-2010.
Why He’s In the News: Peralta broke the St. Louis Cardinals’ single-season home run record for shortstops with his 17th home run last week.
What He Did: Peralta originally came up with Cleveland in 2003, just two weeks after his 21st birthday, as an injury replacement for Omar Vizquel. He struggled in 77 games with the Tribe that year and was back in AAA for almost all of 2004. He was then Omar’s successor at shortstop for the 2005 season and had one of the best seasons a Tribe shortstop has had, posting a .292/.366/.520 batting line with 24 HR along with a 5.1 rWAR and 4.4 fWAR.
Things took a turn in 2006 when he posted 0.2 fWAR while only hitting 13 HR. He bounced back in 2007, hitting a solid .270/.341/.430 with 21 HR and helping the Tribe reach the playoffs for the first time in six years, and performing well in the two playoff series. Peralta continued to improve in 2008, hitting 23 HR and bumping his OPS back over .800 for the first time since 2005.
However, things weren’t quite as good for Peralta in 2009 nor 2010, though was he able to get his OPS over .700 with the Tribe and combined to hit just 18 HR in 242 games. In 2009, he was moved from short to third base to allow Asdrubal Cabrera to move from second to his natural shortstop position. Peralta was able to become the franchise leader in home runs by a shortstop before he switched positions passing Woodie Held. But despite this, his tenure in Cleveland garnered very little fanfare after 2005.
How/Why He Departed: While 2005 proved to be Peralta’s peak with the Indians, he still managed to have some very productive years for the Tribe. However, the move to 3B, his declining bat, and rising salary eventually led to the Indians to decide to move on from him.
After struggling with the bat for the first half of 2010, the Indians traded him (while paying nearly his entire salary) to the Detroit Tigers for minor league LHP Giovanni Soto, rather than exercise a team option for 2011 on Peralta, as the Indians were prepared to move one at 3B and didn’t want to commit the money to him.
Cabrera was limited to just 97 games in 2010 due to injury (after colliding with Peralta on a play), but despite Peralta is a natural shortstop, the Indians gave Jason Donald and Luis Valbuena starts instead to fill the hole at short. Peralta did not play a single inning at shortstop in 2010 for the Indians.
Once in Detroit, things started to turn around almost immediately for him. He was moved back to the shortstop position, and he slugged eight home runs in just 57 games to close out the 2010 season. Tigers declined his option but were impressed enough to bring him back on a multi-year deal. Peralta did not disappoint as he made his first All-Star team in 2011 and accumulated an impressive 11 fWAR in his three full seasons with Detroit. Tigers decided to move on this past winter, and he signed a four-year deal with the Cardinals.
What the Future Holds: At this time last year, Peralta was in the middle of a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Now, he’s enjoying arguably the best season of his career thanks to his best offensive season since 2005, while playing the best defense of his career. Many were skeptical of the 4-year, $53-million-dollar deal he signed with St. Louis, but he’s been a bargain so far. Fangraphs has calculated his worth at $26 million dollars this year, while he’s actually making $15.5 million dollars.
Peralta is 32 years-old now, so perhaps he’s in for a decline offensively and it’s possible his defense this year has been a mirage (+15 Defensive Runs Saved). However, since leaving Cleveland, his defense has rated out as above-average over a three-year period, so there’s a good chance he can at least maintain average defense, and with his 20-HR pop can be a very valuable shortstop.
Since 2011, Peralta has accumulated a 15.7 fWAR. In that same span, Asdrubal Cabrera accumulated 8.8 fWAR. Peralta, the man the Indians felt couldn’t play shortstop anymore, is now a starting shortstop on a perennial playoff contender, while Asdrubal is back at second base with the Washington Nationals. Needless to say, Peralta appears to be one of those guys that got away from the Indians.
Notice a player you remember being in the Indians organization? We’re ever-vigilant, but sometimes we miss guys, too! Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know which former Indians farmhand or player is making noise elsewhere.