If you’ve been reading this space consistently for the last five or six years, you know I am ultra skeptical about anything we hear coming from Surprise.  Everyone is in either the best shape of their life, or they’re ready to dominate.  Or something like that…

This spring, catcher position is an area of interest, for obvious reasons.  Hopefully, there will be some combination of Luke May and Brayan Pena this season.

Looking down the road, Salvador Perez is now the Royals catcher of the future.  He’s not the catcher of the future because the Royals moved Wil Myers to the outfield.  He’s the catcher of the future because his performance last year convinced the Royals they could shift Myers to the outfield.  That’s known as a “win-win” situation.

Perez has been thought of as the Royals best defensive catching prospect for a couple of seasons.   If you saw the latest dispatch from Dutton, you know that Ned Yost raved about his arm.  The Royals have him at 1.8 seconds on the throw to second.  That’s exceptional.  Independent scouts rate his arm as above average.  Last year, Perez gunned down an astounding 37 base runners in 88 steal attempts.  That’s 42%.  Nice.

Perez has been exhibiting his quality arm ever since he joined the organization.  For his career, he’s thrown out 39% of all would be base stealers.  And if you can glean anything from Dutton’s article, it’s that the kid knows his way behind the plate.  According to Baseball America, Perez already knows how to call a good game and does a solid job of framing pitches and working with a pitching staff.  With Yost (a former catcher) as his manager and with Dayton Moore’s track record of what he looks for in a catcher, we know these defensive intangibles – particularly the leadership role in relation to the pitchers and pitching staff – carry a great deal of weight.

While Perez is solidly defensively, it’s the offensive side of his game that have always drawn questions.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Perez refuses to take a walk.  Last year, he drew a grand total of 18 walks in 396 plate appearances.  That’s a 4.5% walk rate.  That’s Olivo-esque.  Over his four year minor league career, he’s been issued 55 walks in just under 1,000 plate appearances.

While the lack of walks is (as usual) a cause for concern, the other side of the coin is Perez makes some kind of consistent contact.  He’s struck out just 98 times in his minor league career… Just 38 times last summer.  While the lack of walks can be viewed as a problem, I’m a big fan of contact.  As long as he doesn’t go fishing for sliders outside the zone (hello, Olivo) and puts the ball in play, I could be convinced to (somewhat) ignore the missing base on balls.  His progress will be worth monitoring as he faces improved pitching as he progresses through the system.

The primary concern for Perez according to Baseball America is his lack of speed.  They grade him at a 25 on the scouts scale of 20-80 and note he already possesses a thick lower half of his body.  The concern is, if he continues to pack on the weight, a lack of mobility could result.  Obviously, that wouldn’t be a good thing.

Perez isn’t going to be a factor in 2011 for the big league team, but he’s certainly one to watch.  There’s been a ton of talk over the last couple of season that the Royals are thin at the catcher position throughout the organization.  That may be the case, but it’s possible Perez is the solution.  As long as the Royals and GMDM resist the temptation to continually go fishing outside the organization for a catcher loaded with intangibles, Perez just may be the Royals catcher of the future.