Who is Jhonny Peralta?
After signing a controversial four year $53 million contract in the offseason, it seems counterintuitive that Cardinal shortstop Jhonny Peralta should fit in the 2014 fantasy sleeper category, but based on his rank and average pick in fantasy drafts, Peralta is potentially the most undervalued Cardinal.
It is unclear where Peralta will hit in the Cardinals lineup this season, and he has been getting at-bats in both the two spot as well as lower in the order this Spring. Although it would certainly increase his value if Peralta batted second for the entire season, even in the six or seven spot Peralta should get plenty of RBI opportunities in a Cardinals offense that is poised to lead the league in runs scored again this season.
2014 Season Outlook
During his 11-year major league career Peralta has posted the following 162 game average season:
Avg. .268 R 79 HR 18 RBI 82 OBP .320 SLG .425
Last year in his shortened season Peralta hit a career high .303, which was aided by a relatively high BABIP, but still impressive. It is unlikely that Peralta will hit over .300 again this season, but even if he drops down to his career norms there is no reason why he should not score 75 runs and drive in 80. Peralta has always been an inconsistent player from year to year as evidenced by his horrible 2012. In 2011, Peralta had a career year, hitting .299 with 21 HR and 86 RBI before plummeting to a .239 BA with 16 HR and 63 RBI in 2012. Obviously the Cardinals have faith that Peralta will return to his 2011 form, and considering the successful moves the club has made in the past couple of years, there is no reason why fantasy owners should not have faith in Peralta also.
Where To Draft Him
The main question mark for potential Peralta owners is, will he be the same player after the 50-game suspension that resulted from the biogenesis investigation last year? Although it was only a small 10 game sample size, Peralta did manage to come back for the playoffs and hit .333 for the Tigers. The Cardinals medical team and front office clearly think that Peralta has not deteriorated physically and were willing to give him a four-year deal. The steroid issue might be one of the main reasons that Peralta has slipped on so many draft boards and league rankings (yahoo has him as the 17th rated shortstop, ESPN 20th) but the fact that the Cardinals believe he will produce, and the paucity of fantasy talent at the shortstop position are enough for me to put Peralta into the second tier of shortstops along with players like Elvis Andrus, JJ Hardy, and Jean Segura.