Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’17 — #14 Hernan Pérez

TWO WEEKS!

It’s almost here. Daylight Saving Time has already started. Wisconsin officially reached the Spring Equinox on Monday. “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” is winding down, though after today’s profile there are still eight or nine more to go (depending on whether I decide to profile the lowest numbered non-roster invitee in Ivan De Jesus, Jr. on Wednesday.)

But regardless of that pending decision, and regardless of my personal health (I’m dealing with a wicked head cold right now), we’ve got #14 to consider for right now and that man is…

Hernan Pérez.

By now you’re probably aware enough of the path taken by Hernan Alejandro Pérez to reach the Milwaukee Brewers, but here’s a recap in case you’re not.

A native of Venezuela, Pérez was a priority July 2nd international signing by the Detroit Tigers back in 2007. Through a rash of injuries at the big league level for the Tigers, Pérez was rushed to the majors for all of two games in 2012. It resulted in the use of his first minor league option and started the clock ticking toward decision time in Detroit. With his final two options used the next two seasons, the Tigers were forced to keep Pérez on the main roster in 2015.

It did not go well. Still just 24, Pérez limped out of the gates with a .061 batting average and a .088 on-base percentage in 34 plate appearances over 22 games. Still, the Brewers saw something in his tools, recognized that he was rushed, and claimed him off waivers. He would appear in 90 games as a Brewer, playing all four infield spots, and hitting at a .270 clip in 238 Milwaukee plate appearances.

It was a solid transition to the National League but still wasn’t enough to save Pérez from being removed from the 40-man roster by way of DFA. Pérez went unclaimed, was outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs, but elected free agency. After a brief foray into the open market, Pérez decided to re-sign with the Brewers on a Minor League contract. It was no secret that the Brewers looked to have an opportunity at third base for 2016, and that’s where Pérez logged the vast majority of his defensive innings.

Between then and the start of camp last year, the Brewers acquired Aaron Hill in a trade and he would end up as the lead dog at the hot corner coming out of the Cactus League. Pérez would end up beginning the season at Triple-A and off the 40-man roster.

What a turnaround from there.

On April 28, Pérez was summoned from Colorado Springs to provide depth after Scooter Gennett hit the the disabled list due do a strained oblique. Outside of a short paternity leave stint in June, Pérez was with the Brewers the rest of the way last year. He would appear in 123 big league games and slashed .272/.302/.428.

He wasn’t a world beater at the plate (91 OPS+ for the season) but it was a drastic improvement over the year before. What Pérez did do was cement himself as a big league player. He played all over the field with the exceptions of pitching and catching. That versatility, in which Pérez rightfully takes a large amount of pride, allows his manager Craig Counsell to deploy him at any time and for any situation.

On days he doesn’t start, Pérez can double-switch with virtually any player on the field, or pinch-hit with his aggressive approach in a key spot. And when Counsell needs him to start, anyone can be the recipient of an extra day of rest.

There was much clamoring by the end of the year for Pérez to be given an everyday job in 2017. Counsell addressed those cries early on saying that Pérez may not have a specific defensive position to call his own, but that’s what makes him so valuable and allows Counsell to pretty much play him everyday if need be.

To be frank, while super-utility might not be the best role for Pérez, it is Pérez’s best role for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017.

Pérez is still young and may eventually settle in somewhere, but for now he provides defensive coverage at seven spots which allows the Brewers to carry a one-position-only bench guy like Jesus Aguilar, potentially. An NL team can’t afford one-position bench guys (see: Gennett, Scooter circa 2016) without multiple defensively versatile guys (see: Gennett, Scooter circa 2017).

For his part and his role, Pérez stands to be a major contributor for the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers. And now that he’s back in camp following his playing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, his preparations for those contributions can resume in earnest.

Looking to catch up on this season’s BBtJN? Just click on a name below:

#59 Carlos Torres
#57 Chase Anderson
#56 Ryan Webb
#54 Michael Blazek
#53 Jhan Mariñez
#52 Jimmy Nelson
#51 Damien Magnifico
#50 Jacob Barnes
#47 Jett Bandy
#46 Corey Knebel
#45 Tyler Cravy
#41 Junior Guerra
#38 Wily Peralta
#37 Neftalí Feliz
#35 Brent Suter
#33 Tommy Milone
#29 Yadiel Rivera
#28 Jorge Lopez
#27 Zach Davies
#26 Taylor Jungmann
#25 Michael Reed
#24 Jesús Aguilar
#23 Keon Broxton
#22 Matt Garza
#21 Travis Shaw
#18 Eric Sogard
#16 Domingo Santana