Salvador Pérez / Capture of MLB Network
Salvador Pérez is probably not the best Latin American catcher in the history of the Major Leagues. But the merits that he has accumulated already force him to be considered one of the most prominent in the most exclusive list, the one that combines the most outstanding both in defense and offense.
Pérez left behind, long ago, the MLB achievements of Ramón Hernández, the most advanced of his compatriots and the legitimate successor to Bo Díaz.
He is the most notable recipient to come out of Venezuela. And he is already the most notable of his franchise, the Kansas City Royals.
Reaching 40 home runs in one season -this Saturday- and the guarantee of having secured his sixth Gold Glove and fourth Silver Bat in just 10 years allow him to put his name as part of that brotherhood that until now was only made up of natives. from Puerto Rico.
Javy Lopez was the only Hispanic mask with a 40-homer crop in the Major Leagues. He did it in 2003, with the Atlanta Braves, and since then none of his colleagues had done it, regardless of nationality.
Serving 40 balls in a tournament, in which the main responsibility is to receive the pitches from your pitchers behind the plate, is a cyclopean task. So much so, that only 8 stars have achieved it in the 150 years of existence of the Big Show.
Lopez, however, did not have the defense and good reputation with the implements of his more advanced compatriots. The same happened with Jorge Posada, another Puerto Rican remembered for his wood and leadership in such a difficult position.
The elite, the cream of the crop, appealing to the commonplace, formed it and still do Iván Rodríguez and Yadier Molina. Anyone who wants to get close to the top has to get a record comparable to those two.
And that does require an exceptional journey.
Rodríguez is at the pinnacle. His 2,844 hits are a milestone for receivers on the Big Show. So are his 14 All-Star calls, his 13 Gold Gloves, his 7 Silver Bats. He hit 311 home runs, was an MVP and won a World Series.
Pudge disputes the mythical Johnny Bench and the no less memorable Gary Carter for the right to be considered number one in the history of the Big Top.
Molina is the catcher of the 21st century, the best of his generation. He lags behind his compatriot, because he never had the production of that one. Although he has not been lackluster either, with 2,094 hits and a Silver Bat that he exhibits along with his 10 All-Star Game calls, his 9 Gold Gloves, his 4 Platinum Gloves and his two World Series rings.
Pérez is in his 10th season in the MLB. From now on, he will be eligible for the Hall of Fame once he retires. The time requirement was lacking. Because you already have numbers to at least be on the ballot. His 192 home runs are top for a Royals mask. Also his 7 trips to the All-Star Game and his collection of awards, which will soon rise to 6 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Bats, when the vote is revealed in November. He won the 2015 World Series and was the MVP in that Fall Classic. And at 31 years old and a robust physique, he appears to be in the middle of his career.
The Venezuelan will have time to close differences with the two great Puerto Ricans, if he maintains good health and his regression occurs naturally, without abrupt cuts. It is at its zenith. His explosion in 2021 is not a surprise, if you see the progression of his home runs, always on the rise – not counting the season shortened by the pandemic. Since 2011 it has gone from 3 to 11, 13, 17, 21, 22, 27, again 27 and now 40. Never, until now, has it gone backwards.
Soon he will begin to do so, because every athlete accuses the passage of time at some point. But it’s a good omen that he has never suffered any major injuries, except once, when in March 2019 he tore a tendon in his elbow.
Perez returned from Surgery Tommy John stronger as a hitter. Since 2020 he has an .879 OPS and an adjusted 134 OPS, brilliant for a catcher. And his defense has not suffered. Always, throughout his career, he has had an above-average defensive bWAR.
This is how it has been again in these last two tournaments. And he’s on the verge of accomplishing a feat only Bench and the legendary Roy Campanella have accomplished: a season of 40 homers and 40 percent success against opposing stealers.
Because the native of Valencia is leader in that department in the American League, with 41 percent. He is at the top with the tree and stands at the top with the pet.
No, Pérez is not the best Latin American catcher in history. But he still has time to continue adding, until he sneaks into the place that until now has belonged exclusively to those two Puerto Rican geniuses.