Joe Perez joined the system via the 2017 draft, but we wouldn’t see him make his full season debut until 2021 thanks to a variety of factors. He was still recovering from surgery when selected and wasn’t healthy enough to debut at all that year, and his 2018 rookie ball campaign would be cut almost equally short, after just 4 games. He got a bit more action in 2019, managing to stay out there for 50 NYPL games, but there was apparent rust as he hit just .188 in 195 PAs with a 27.7% strikeout rate.
The NYPL stint wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, but it did provide some momentum for Perez in the sense that he had some games under his belt and health on his side. Unfortunately, a whole new set of circumstances (a pandemic), would rob him of his 2020 season, meaning that he would need to wait until after his 21st birthday to take an A-ball diamond. While not entirely his fault, this left Perez on the fringes of the national prospecting radar, as it was simply hard to trust a player with a condensed timeline and little to no track record of hitting success.
There wasn’t much buzz around Perez during the lost 2020 season, but when the time finally came for him to make his full season debut, he proved to be very ready. In fact, he’d earn a promotion after just 12 games, in which he hit .300/.407/.500 with a 15.3% walk rate. It was an aggressive move, but not a total shock given Perez’ age at that time, and the Astros were quickly vindicated when he improved his torrid pace further at High-A to the tune of a .354/.413/.707 slash and 8 home runs in 25 games. It is almost unheard of for a player like to Perez to advance to his third level of the season before he has played in his 40th game, but that is exactly what happened, as he found himself on his way to Corpus in short order.
Perez’ gaudy A-ball numbers had turned a few heads nationally, and while he didn’t quite maintain the insane pace in the upper minors, he more than held his own with the Hooks, tallying 8 more home runs and a 98 wRC+ in 69 games. The numbers looked even better when cutting out a slow start, and he was impressing evaluators around the game by this point. His season would end with the Hooks, but he had improved his stock as much as more or less any minor league player in 2021, and entered 2022 with the look of one of the organization’s best prospects.
Unfortunately, the injury bug would strike Perez again in 2022, limiting both his availability and effectiveness for much of the season. Entering late summer, Perez was still wrestling with the Mendoza line, and was beginning to enter forgotten man territory once again, but continued to work tirelessly to right the ship. Eventually, he seemed to do so, hitting .324/.378/.480 in August with 12 XBH (10 2B, 2 HR) and then maintaining a similar OBP (.367) in 12 September tilts. For a player in his shoes, the end of the season looms large, as he’d surely like to put more good at bats on film while he’s healthy and hot. To that end, the Astros decided yesterday to promote him to Triple-A for the end of the season, allowing him to get at least a few more contests in before the offseason strikes.
Despite his long tenure in the organization- and the fact that he was actually briefly on the big league roster in the past, taking one game at-bat- this is actually Perez’ first trip to Triple-A, and it should position him as an everyday member of the lineup entering 2023. It has been a roller coaster developmental path for him thus far, but he continues to offer an appealing skillset typical of an everyday big league third baseman. It’s probably fair to say that another injury plagued season has hurt his stock a bit, but the fact that he was able to give us a taste of his past peaks in the stretch run makes it much easier to maintain optimism going forward. From where I sit, it should save him from suffering too big of a drop in organizational rankings during the offseason. He remains one of the highest ceiling position players in the system after the obvious top names.