Every year, there are a handful of players who were previously relative unknowns, backups or even minor leaguers, who burst onto the scene in a big way. The Indians have been lucky enough to have a few of the best breakout players in recent memory with Michael Brantley, Corey Kluber and Jose Ramirez. Brantley famously was the player to be named later and an afterthought of the blockbuster CC Sabathia deadline trade. Kluber was an extremely undervalued minor league prospect traded to Cleveland for essentially nothing to bring them two Cy Young awards in the process. And Ramirez had been an underdog his whole career just barely slipping through the cracks to breakout coincidentally as Brantley’s temporary injury replacement.
This year, it is possible that the Indians have yet another big breakout player on their team. While most would be quick to point their finger to Carlos Santana, the team’s All-Star first baseman, I am referring to the backstop, Roberto Pérez. Pérez was thrust into a starting role this season when Yan Gomes was traded to the Nationals for OF Daniel Johnson who just made the Futures Game with a .274/.359/.521 slash line across AA/AAA this season and P Jefry Rodriguez who has a 4.74 ERA this year and looks to have potential as a back-end starter. The trade already looked great with what the Tribe got back, but when you factor in Roberto’s production up to this point, the Indians brain trust look like geniuses once again.
There was already cause for concern with trading away an All-Star catcher over the offseason for two unproven prospects. Combine that with deciding to start the backup who struggled at the dish all season long and only managed a measly .168/.256/.263 line through 62 games and the fans were less than thrilled, to say the very least. However, there was a reason to believe things would be fine because Pérez had great success during the magical 2016 postseason run when Gomes was down with a thumb injury.
Pérez has proved that he is more than capable as a starter and he’s had great success offensively and defensively. He was recently named to the MLB team of the month for June and he is second among AL catchers in home runs (16) trailing only All-Star starter Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees. He’s slashing .256/.345/.527 through 63 games and he has a tremendous amount of respect throughout the clubhouse.
Roberto Pérez being inserted into the starting lineup regularly has given him much more confidence, which has led to his breakout season. As we roll into the hot summer months of the lengthy season, Roberto continues to heat up and he’ll look to be a key piece in the Tribe’s second-half push for the playoffs.