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Could José Peraza play center field?

Getting quality starting pitching has been the obvious focus of the Cincinnati Reds front office this off season, however, the only non-pitching move they’ve made left a gaping hole in center field. Is it possible that José Peraza could make the jump to the outfield?

Everyone has an opinion, one way or another, about the Cincinnati Reds decision to non-tender centerfielder Billy Hamilton this off season, and they are all good arguments, but you cannot argue one fact. Hamilton’s defense at center field will be missed. Now the Reds have the task of filling Hamilton’s speedy shoes in the outfield. Could José Peraza be the guy to do so?

A lot of names have been thrown around among reds fans as potential replacements for Hamilton. Some say they should move Scott Schebler over or give Yasiel Puig the job. However, Nick Senzel is the name that seems to come up most frequently because fans are so desperate to see him make his Major League debut. But, I think we are overlooking an obvious solution to this puzzle.

José Peraza regularly plays shortstop for the Redlegs. He also had something of a breakout season this year. Slashing .288/.326/.416 with 14 home runs and 31 doubles, I think it’s fair to say Peraza put up some solid numbers last year. He also finished with 182 base hits this year, just 3 hits shy of Barry Larkin’s record of 185 at shortstop set in 1990.

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Peraza was brought over from the Dodgers in December of 2015 along with Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon. When he was acquired, Peraza was listed as a second baseman, but he also made an appearance in the outfield for the Dodgers and this year for the Reds. Is it possible he could do it on a regular basis?

One of the reasons why Hamilton was so successful defensively is his unmatched speed. While no one on the Cincinnati Reds roster can come close to touching Hamilton’s speed, Peraza is about as close as anyone could get. Peraza ranked 10th in the National League in 2018 with 23 stolen bases and Peraza’s 28.8 feet per second speed is just below Hamilton’s 30.1.

Though he’s sporting a .962 fielding percentage with 161 putouts and 403 assists, he also had 22 errors this season. There are some definite gaps in Peraza’s defensive capabilities, but that makes him a defensive liability no matter what position he plays. Also, don’t forget Peraza is only 24, he can and surely will improve both offensively and defensively. It has even been reported already this offseason that he is working to improve his defensive prowess on the diamond.

One thing to consider about the possibility of moving Peraza to center field is that it would open the door for Nick Senzel to play in the infield. One option would be for Eugenio Suárez to move back to his old position at shortstop and have Senzel take over at third base. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to just have Senzel play at shortstop.

Another possible benefit to this move would be filling another outfield slot and further opening the door to trading for another starting pitcher. The Cleveland Indians have reportedly expressed interest in Taylor Trammell. While it would be extremely hard to see the Reds let go of a top prospect, I think it could be well worth it in the long run to package Trammell with Winker, Kemp or Schebler, and maybe a mid-level prospect in exchange for a starting pitcher. The Indians have more than one who could help the Reds shake things up in the National League.

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Options are open across the board and while almost anything is possible, this seems like an unlikely route for the Reds to take. I think, however, that this is one way to bring Senzel into the Major Leagues without having to sacrifice the talent they already have. After Peraza’s breakout season this year, he has a lot of potential no matter where he is on the field.

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