It isn’t often that there is a Royals player who is even in the Home Run Derby conversation, let alone deserving of it. For starters, Kansas City hasn’t historically produced home run hitters. It took the Royals 50 seasons to see a 40-home run campaign.
But there’s also the marketability question. Billy Butler was considered in 2012 and while the “Boo Cano” movement was amazing and a truly fond memory, it wouldn’t have been necessary had the All-Star Game not been in Kansas City.
The reason Billy was considered was that he was the hometown All-Star. He entered the All-Star break with the 24th-most home runs in baseball and wasn’t exactly a powerhouse personality. Then you had Mike Moustakas, who was legitimately worthy – his 25 homers were the fifth most in the league at the break – but also wasn’t overly exciting.
His average exit velocity was the fifth-best on his own team and 115th-best in baseball. He wasn’t really a bomb dropper as much as someone whose swing was lofty. That was evident in his performance in the Home Run Derby, which was respectable, but without a moonshot.
Well this season, the Royals have another Home Run Derby candidate in Salvador Perez. And unlike Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas, he is not only worth of inclusion, but is also someone that the world needs to see take batting practice on the national stage. Let’s take a look at his resume.
I could be absolutely wrong on this, but Sal is in my estimation the most marketable player in Royals history not named Bo Jackson. Everybody loves Sal. He has more fun than just about any player and is a national fan favorite.
And that isn’t a small thing in Kansas City. Guys like Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Alex Gordon were all popular and/or well-liked in their time, but none of them had the national appeal that Sal has. This is evidenced by his domination of All-Star voting, more or less across his entire career. Since 2014, he has started in every single All-Star Game aside from 2019, a season he missed entirely due to injury.
And this season, he’s an All-Star vote juggernaut. Through June 21, Sal had received the third most votes of any player in baseball.
Most All-Star votes among all MLB players:— Nick Kappel (@NickKappel) June 21, 2021
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1,745,105)
2. Ronald Acuña Jr. (1,599,885)
3. SALVADOR PEREZ (1,391,586)#VoteSalvy
Sal is not just recognizable but loved nationally by fans, something that isn’t really common in Royals players. And when people tune in to the Home Run Derby, it is to see exciting players.
Home Run Hitting
Next on the Home Run Derby resume is his home run hitting ability. This is, naturally, a very important part of his resume. For those just joining us, the Home Run Derby is a contest to see who can hit the most home runs in the allotted time period. And Sal has hit plenty of home runs to date.
Only five players in baseball have hit more homers than Salvy this season. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Shohei Ohtani, and Matt Olson play first base or DH. Ronald Acuna plays outfield. The only guy ahead of him that doesn’t play a true power hitter’s position is Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. The next closest catcher to pop up on that list is Mike Zunino down in 27th.
So this isn’t just Sal hitting a lot of homers for a catcher. He’s hitting a lot of homers for any position. He’s on pace for 42 homers. Sal has always been a first-half hitter and, historically, has seen his production drop dramatically in the second half. However, if he were to fulfill that pace, he would be just the fifth catcher since 1900 to hit 40 home runs in a season.
Is it likely that he stays at that pace? Based on his career, probably not. But at the moment, he’s not only one of the best power hitters in baseball, but he’s having one of the best home run hitting seasons by a catcher in baseball history.
And he is as hot as ever, adding a whopping eight home runs to his total this month including two homers in his last four games and three multi-homer games. He is, at the moment, a home run hitting machine coming off maybe his best month as a pro.
Baseball Smashing Resume
Lastly, we see the baseball-smashing portion of his resume. And there is a difference between a baseball smasher and a home run hitter. Moustakas is a great example of this, whose average exit velocity of 87.4 was 99th best in baseball.
And in the Home Run Derby, that matters. We all want to see Vladdy Jr. and Shohei Ohtani because they hit tanks. And we want to see them hit those tanks in the Rockie Mountains this season. The same goes for Sal. He can put on a show.
No player has hit more balls at least 95+ MPH off the bat this season than Sal. And while he has hit the fifth-most home runs in baseball this season, he’s second in baseball with 22.2 xHR, trailing only Ohtani. In other words, Baseball Savant shows that Sal should actually have four more homers than he does now, which is the fourth most in baseball.
So he is already one of the most prolific home run hitters in the game right now and he should probably have even more. For reference, only 5 of the top 35 home run hitters in the game have fewer actual home runs than expected home runs. In fact, there are only two hitters in the top 100 who even have three more expected homers than actual homers.
He has just one “doubter homer” this season, tied for the least in baseball. “Doubter homers” are defined as homers that would not have been homers in at least 23 stadiums. His nine “no-doubters” are the fifth most in baseball, while his 17 “mostly gone” homers are the most in baseball.
It’s impossible for me to make this case without bias. I am, of course, biased towards Sal. But unlike the case for Billy in 2012, seeing Sal in the Home Run Derby would be great for every fan, not just Kansas City fans.
He is a national fan favorite, he’s hitting home runs at a rate that few, if any catchers have ever hit, and those home runs aren’t wall scrapers. He is inhumanely smashing baseballs and we are letting him get away with it because of that darn smile.
Get that man into the competition to see who can hit the ball the furthest in the mountains of Colorado. We all need this. And keep those baseballs out of the humidor.