Name: Audry Perez
Acquired: Signed, Minor League Free Agent - 2008
Player Profile & Career Summary
If you look up the definition of "career minor league catcher" on Wikipedia, you should see the names of former Cardinal farm hands like Mike Mahoney, Matt Pagnozzi, and Keith McDonald residing as prime examples of guys who were good enough defensively to hang around an organization but just never had the bat to make it as an MLB backup. All them have one thing in common: They were all better hitters than Audry Perez.
Perez is a farm depth player -- a guy you hold on to when your farm is completely lacking in any sort of prospects at his respective position. This particularly holds true for catchers: Good defensive players at the position that can handle the rigors of playing every day have a shot to hold down a minor league roster spot for a long time. Masked journeyman have an even better chance of doing so if they can prove valuable in the development of faberge egg-like pitching prospects. It's why Crash Davis' Triple-A contract was bought out after all. If you can teach those kids that the rose goes in front and get them to clean their shower shoes, you can keep your mediocre paying summer gig for a good long time.
In 379 minor league games and roughly 1500 PA's, Perez has managed a .266/.292/.412 line. That slugging number is no joke -- he's got 41 minor league homers to his credit, so you if you hang him a breaking ball or get a fastball near the middle of the plate, Perez can make you pay. He doesn't strike out much, just 15.3% of the time in his career, but that's offset by rarely, if ever, drawing a walk: Just 42 free passes in his 6 year career. Barry Bonds used to walk that much in a 4 game series.
Two words describe his typical offensive output: Weak contact. Perez hits a lot of worm burners (46.9 GB% across AA and AAA), which leads to occasional spurts of ground ball luck that he could take more advantage of if he could run a bit better. As it is, he's your prototypical weak hitter: ISO under .100, low line drive rate (15% across AA and AAA) and the subsequent sub-.600 OPS to go along with it. This guy isn't a prospect, he's filler, and filler at a position that has a lot of sub-replacement level talent floating around the minor leagues every single year. He's really been more of a backup catcher throughout the minor leagues, giving away plate appearances at each stop to higher ceiling prospects like Cody Stanley and Robert Stock or to big league emergency backstops like J.R. Towles and Rob Johnson.
Solid throwing arm, decent pop times, but nothing to write home about. But you'd have to think this is the reason he's in AAA. Well, other than the fact that Carson Kelly is the only worthy prospect at the position in the whole organization and hasn't played a game behind the dish yet. Someone's got to catch pitches thrown at AAA, might as well be Audry Perez.
Why he's on the 40 man roster I haven't a clue other than there are so few catchers in the Cardinals system that they'd rather go with the guy they know than the guy they don't and were afraid he'd declare as a free agent rather than submitting to the Rule 5 draft.
Starting catcher for the split-squad Cardinals in Spring Training, catching boatloads of simulated games and side throwing on off days with starting pitchers. Possibly keeping a job warm for Carson Kelly at either Springfield or Memphis. Possibly cut if any of the two non-roster invitees at his position outplays him.
Zip. None. Nada. I'd make the case for him being a good dugout translator for Oscar Taveras, but it seems the club filled that role with a professional if we to take the Winter Warm Up interviews as any indication.
Hanging around in the minors catching pitches in the bullpen or on the field. I don't think they'll cut him after protecting him on the 40 man. Someone in the organization sees some value in what he brings or they'd have let him go. Minor league catchers with his offensive profile are a dime a dozen.