By Jack Stephens, from Cardsblog.com
For me, one of the coolest parts of the All-Star game is the variety of stories. Every player has taken a unique journey to this showcase of personal achievement - long, short, direct, and everywhere in between. Take Justin Turner for example.
Once cut by the Mets, he squeaked onto his first all star team at 32 years of age. A small minor league adjustment led to a huge payoff, a wonderful and elite big league career.
Next, think of Aaron Judge, who once had a batting average of .224 in AAA just two years ago. At the time, it seemed like he had finally met his match. Now, it seems like he may be on his way to becoming the face of the entire MLB.
Put simply, you just never know where these all stars will come from. Sure, some are sure-fire candidates. For the most part, however, players constantly defy the odds, battling slumps and adjusting to phenomenal careers.
Ok, so what does this have to do with Delvin Perez?
Well, it is pretty simple. The Cardinals drafted Perez with the hopes that, like the aforementioned ball players, he would one day become an All-Star, perhaps the offensive face of the franchise in St. Louis. Logically, one proceeds to hope for a linear development, a steady dose of solid performances, followed by the accordant promotions. Fans and front offices want it to go smoothly, for their golden boys to make it as fast as possible to the big leagues.
So far, Perez's development has not followed such a breezy path. In fact, it has been exactly the opposite.
Starting things off in 2016, things didn't go so poorly. Perez began in the Gulf Coast League, where he played 43 games, compiling 163 at-bats. He slashed a solid .294/.352/.393, hitting 8 doubles and driving in 19 runs along the way. While he was by no means dominant, this was an above-acceptable start to the 18 year old's career.
After such a first year, I think I can speak for most when I expected a bang in 2017. I was hoping to see Perez build upon his solid 2016, starting to polish off his game and truly utilize his unbelievable skill-set. Much to my chagrin, Perez has not performed to this level - not at all.
To be precise, Perez exited extended spring training in early June, where he got placed in the Appalachian league. This, in theory, was a step-up from his year 1 placement.
In 13 games, though, Perez floundered. He slashed .140/.275/.186, striking out 8 times and grabbing just one extra base hit. While one could claim his balls in play average of .171 to suggest some bad luck, I would tend to disagree. Perez is struggling to drive the ball consistently, and it is showing.
As a result of his struggles, the front-office decided to demote Perez back to the GCL. While demotions are never necessarily "positive" in the words true form, I believe that this instance comes with very little reasoning for panic or disappointment.
Sure, Perez is struggling. Ultimately, though, this stage of his career just doesn't really matter, especially in a statistical sense. Perez is 18 years old. He is incredibly raw, still learning the ins and outs of what it means to be a professional ball player.
At this stage, what matters is not statistics or daily performance, but refinement of skills and constant learning. While this may be frustrating for Perez and fans alike, the development of such talent requires extreme patience. Right now, the Cardinals are doing just the right thing. Perez must learn to weather the storm, to make adjustments and improve in the face of adversity. There is no better place to do so then the GCL.
Before you panic and write off Perez for some irrational, emotionally charged reason, just take a deep breath. He is unbelievably young, with many years to harness and act upon his seemingly limitless talent.
With the resources at his disposal in the minor league system, I have no doubts that he will bounce back. Not only will he bounce back, but he will improve drastically, eventually hitting his stride and sprinting for the big leagues.