One of the breakout candidates for the first half of the Phillies season has been outfielder Cam Perkins. On his career Perkins is hitting .305/.358/.438 and he has put up gaudy doubles numbers with 74 doubles across 241 games. In 2014 he hit 19 doubles in 52 games for the Reading Fightin Phils. On the first glance these numbers start to create a narrative of a player who should be topping prospect lists. Lets take a deeper look into a player who has been getting a ton of press.
Lets start with the defense. In the field Perkins can play RF, LF, and 1B (he did play 11 games at third base in 2012, his college position). In the outfield he has an average arm, and he is passable on his routes. He has the athleticism to be playable in both corners, but he fits best in left field long term. Overall the defense shouldn’t be a liability, but it isn’t going to help him.
On the bases Perkins is 14 of 26 on stolen bases, good for a 53.8% SB%, unless he improves greatly on that percentage, he is not going to be adding any value with his legs.
So lets get on to the offense. The biggest problem with Perkins is the power. Despite those 74 doubles, Perkins has only hit 11 home runs in his career. That leaves him with a career ISO of .133. This lends an atypical left field profile. So lets see if there is a trend to how he hits the ball. (only splits for non-rehab assignments used)
For reference the GB% would rank him as the 6th highest among qualified LFers in 2013 behind only Chris Denorfia, Eric Young, Starling Marte, Michael Brantley, and Matt Holliday. That isn’t too horrible, however his LD% would be 2% below the nearest qualifier, Yoenis Cespedes (16.7%). This seems to indicate that his BABIP of nearly .350 on his career is likely unsustainable, and we can see on his hits this year, that he has been lucky in the infield with 14 of his 79 hits coming in the infield. (he had 18 IF hits in 2013) Perkins will not have all of those will go away, but without blazing speed, better defenses on the major league level are going to make those plays more often.
Then there is his ability to drive the ball. Perkins ISO so far in 2014 is .137, when compared to qualified major left fielders in 2013 he would have ranked ahead of only Gregor Blanco, Eric Young, Michael Brantley, and Chris Denorfia. Of that group Denorfia and Blanco are defensive whizes in left field, Young put up 9 runs on baserunning (and still only posted a 0.7 fWAR), and Brantley kept his strikeout rate down and had an underwhelming year overall.
The comparison that many want to make is with a player a couple spots above in Royal Outfielder Alex Gordon, whose career ISO of .167 is still .030 higher than Perkins career rate. Perkins supporters will point to Gordon’s power as a a reason that Perkins can succeed without profile power. Gordon over the past 4 seasons has posted a 12.1% HR/OFB rate, and Perkins comes in at 4.4% rate. Perkins is spraying doubles around, but he is not elevating the ball, and when he does he is not driving it out of the park.
And so we are left with a player showing high contact rates that may not be sustainable against better defenses, and has yet to show an ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark. What Perkins has shown is an innate ability to put the bat on the ball, but it often seems that seems to be the extent of it as he will throw the bat head out and flair the ball down the line or into the outfield. I struggle to find a ton of confidence that he will continue to find success with this approach against better pitching and hitting. Perkins who will be 23 for the entire season is listed at 6′ 5″ and 195lbs, so there is a chance he continues to add enough muscle to drive the ball, but he will also need to adjust his approach to drive the ball for more power.
In an outfield corner it is a tough profile with limited secondary value. It would be good for the Phillies if he finds those improvements, but he looks like a 4th outfielder with good positional versatility