The definition of a minor-league journeyman, Blake Perkins is now on his fourth professional organization, all since being a second-round pick by the Nationals in 2015. He was traded to the Royals as part of a package for Kelvin Herrera in 2018, became a minor-league free agent for the first time after 2021, and signed with the Yankees. He first reached Double A in 2019, but scuffled there, played nowhere during the pandemic season of 2020, struggled again at Double A in 2021, and didn't make it to Triple A until the late stages of 2022.
In his lone year with the Yankees, though, Perkins did discover something. His power shot up, thanks to a reengineered swing that yielded many more fly balls.
Blake Perkins, Batted Ball Distribution, 2018-22
|Season||GB %||LD %||FB %|
He showed off that newfound power with a homer in Saturday's rout of the Giants in Arizona. It was his first hit of the spring, and he's just 1-10 in the early going, but he also has three walks and just two strikeouts. The latter is characteristic of him: he's run high walk rates throughout most of his pro career. The Brewers love guys with a patient approach and good knowledge of the zone, and Perkins has that.
Hitting the ball hard regularly will help him stay on fans' radar throughout the spring, but the reason he's an increasingly interesting candidate for the Opening Day roster is the same as the reason the Brewers gave him a 40-man roster spot when they signed him months ago: he can play solid defense at all three outfield positions. With Tyrone Taylor out for a while and Tyler Naquin scratched Saturday with a nagging shoulder issue, the path to the parent club is getting wider, especially for someone who can back up Garrett Mitchell in center field. Sal Frelick meets the criteria to some extent, but the World Baseball Classic might disrupt his audition too much to give the team sufficient confidence to bring him with them to open the season.
More importantly, perhaps, Perkins could fit into the picture without requiring the team to clear a roster spot for him, as Frelick or Joey Wiemer each would. Split deals are a rarely-used tool in free agency, but they provide dual upside for the player. First, they usually involve a higher salary in the minors than a typical minor-league deal does, and indeed, Perkins's salary while in the minors on this one if a healthy $175,000. Just as importantly, though, they also give the player a better chance of spending significant time in the majors than a minor-league deal can, because of roster inertia. This spring camp has perfectly illustrated that principle for Perkins.
As unexciting as he might seem, Perkins is the kind of complementary piece who can help a team win close games, with his solid glove and plus speed. His offensive emergence last year was encouraging, too, but even if he doesn't hit much, he could have good tactical value at the end of Milwaukee's bench. The odds that he gets to demonstrate that utility right out of the gate are steadily improving.
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