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Is it Legit? Jose Peraza's 2018 Breakout

We continue with our next edition of "Is It Legit?" to discuss another surprising breakout performer from the 2018 MLB season in order to assess his value heading into 2019.

With so many players seemingly becoming fantasy baseball darlings overnight, it can be challenging to sift through the multiple hype trains and determine which players are actually expected to produce similar, or even better, numbers the following year.

Cincinnati Reds shortstop Jose Peraza is our next breakout candidate after he posted 14 home runs, 23 stolen bases and a tidy .288/.326/.416 slash line in his second full season. Always known for his speed, the big question for Peraza is if the power is legit, and if it is enough to make him a top-100, or even top-50, fantasy draft pick next year.

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Can Peraza Repeat in 2019?

For those of you who closely follow baseball, particularly prospects, it may seem crazy that Red shortstop Jose Peraza is only 24 years old. It feels like the speedy infielder has been around forever after he made his first professional appearance way back in 2011 with the Atlanta Braves rookie affiliate. A brief cameo with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 led to an offseason trade where he landed in Cincinnati - where he has been for the last three years.

Peraza faltered in his first two years with the Reds, posting very solid stolen base numbers but little else, making him an unappealing draft target heading into 2018. However, his power showed up in a big way last season, vaulting him into top-50 territory and helping him finish eighth among shortstops on ESPN's player rater.

So is the power legit? After all, Peraza only hit eight home runs in his first three (partial) seasons combined, so hitting 14 certainly seems flukey. Peraza did make a very noticeable change in his swing path last season, however - which helped lead to the change. His launch angle was just 9.9 degrees in 2017, below the league average. That jumped to 13.4 degrees last season, helping him hit 6.7% more fly balls on the year. Combine that with an 8.1% jump in his hard-hit rate, and suddenly his power surge makes more sense.

It's worth pointing out that while his increase in Hard-hit rate was substantial, it jumped from 21.4% to 29.5% - which is still not very hard. In fact, xStats actually only pegged Peraza for 7.4 home runs last season, primarily because Peraza' s average fly ball distance of 292 feet last year was the lowest among all 65 hitters who hit 100 or more fly balls. What does that mean? Well, his home run total may be a tad flukey after all. The improvements Peraza made are real, but 14 home runs are probably on the high end of what can be expected for the speedster going forward.

Still, that's nothing to cry about. Perhaps the best thing about Peraza's profile is that an increase in fly balls and power did not also come with an increase in strikeouts, which is often the case. Peraza only struck out 11.0% of the time last year, a slight decrease from 2017. His O-swing rate stayed nearly identical, and his contact rate actually improved - something you don't see very often for a player who improves their power output.

Obviously, an uptick in home runs is huge for a player who already possesses the kind of stolen base prowess that can win leagues. It helps Peraza rack up more runs and RBI, and of course, helps in the batting average department. Something along the lines of .290|80|15|65|25 is not out of the question for Peraza, depending on where Cincinnati hits him in the lineup.

Those in OBP leagues should still be wary, however, as the walk-averse Peraza only posted a 4.2% walk rate, which helped drag his OBP down to .326. In standard roto leagues, Peraza is worth a look somewhere between 50-100 overall, as the young shortstop can be a solid five-category contributor at a key position in 2019.

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