Salvador Johan Perez Diaz
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 230 lb.
Salvador Perez was signed by scout Juan Indriago for the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He made his pro debut for the AZL Royals in 2007 and reached the major leagues late in the 2011 season. He did extremely well in his first taste of the big leagues, hitting .331/.361/.473 in 39 games, during which he hit 8 doubles, 2 triples and 3 homers, with 20 runs scored and 21 RBI. He hit his first career homer on August 29th, connecting off the Detroit Tigers' Max Scherzer as part of a three-hit day in a 9-5 Royals win.
As a result of his good play the previous year, Perez headed into spring training in 2012 as the favorite to be the Royals' starting catcher, but he injured his knee and had to go on the 60-day disabled list before the start of the season. After undergoing surgery, he returned to the majors on June 22nd, smashing a two-run homer off the St. Louis Cardinals' Joe Kelly in his season debut.
On September 20, 2014, with the Royals trying to make the postseason for the first time since 1985, Salvador made a costly baserunning blunder in a key game against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. With the score tied at 1-1 in the 6th, he was on third base with Eric Hosmer on second with one out when Omar Infante lined out to 2B Ian Kinsler for the second out. Kinsler tried to pick Hosmer off second base, but his throw ended up in left field, allowing Perez to score. The Tigers put on an appeal play, after Hernan Perez, sitting on the bench, told manager Brad Ausmus that the Royals' catcher had failed to retouch third base before scoring. At first, third base umpire Larry Vanover denied the appeal, but Ausmus asked for a video review. Vanover said the play was not reviewable, but still checked with Major League Baseball headquarters in New York, NY. While that was going on, the scoreboard at Kauffman Stadium showed a replay, with Salvador not coming close to retouching the bag; so after MLB confirmed that the play could not be reviewed, the four umpires conferred and decided to reverse the original call, negating Perez's run. It turned out to be a key one as the Tigers scored twice in the top of the 7th and won the game, 3-2. Still the Royals ended up making the postseason, and Perez contributed a .260 batting average with 28 doubles, 17 homers and 70 RBIs. He also played 146 games at catcher, most in the majors, and his excellent defensive play led to a second Gold Glove. In the postseason, he went 1 for 6 with an RBI as the Royals won a epic extra-inning game to eliminate the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game. He continued to struggle at the plate in the next two series, going a combined 3 for 28 as the Royals went undefeated to reach the 2014 World Series where they met the San Francisco Giants. He was excellent in that seven-game battle, going 8 for 24 (.333) with a double and a homer as the Royals fell just short of the big prize.
Perez was back at it with another solid all-around season in 2015 as he made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove both for the third straight year. With the Royals never in danger of missing the postseason and a solid back-up available in Drew Butera (at least on the defensive side), he was able to get a little more rest but still played 139 games behind the plate. Given his large size and instinct for blocking all sorts of ball in the dirt, he got banged up more that his share by foul tips and errant pitches, but still hit .260 with 25 doubles, a career-high 21 homers and 70 RBIs in 142 games. This time, his bat was present all postseason, though: he hit a pair of homers in both the Division against the Houston Astros and the Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays. His contributions were essential both times as the series were hard-fought and decided by small margins. In the World Series he became a full-fledged star by winning the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in hitting .364 with a pair of doubles and proving a rock behind the plate in playing all but the very last inning of the Series in which the Royals won their first title in 30 years by defeating the New York Mets in five games.
Perez signed a contract extension with the Royals as spring training opened in 2016, putting his name on a deal that went for five years at $52.5 million on March 1st. Two days before signing, however, his mother Yilda Diaz was the victim of a carjacking by heavily-armed gunmen in his hometown of Valencia Venezuela. She escaped unarmed, but the attack was a symptom of the risks many Latin players and their families were facing, especially in the deteriorating security climate of Venezuela. On April 19th, he set a personal best with 5 RBIs in an 8-6 win over the Detroit Tigers; the game included a three-run homer off Blaine Hardy. Typically, he had played in all 13 of the Royals' games until then, with 12 of those as the starting catcher. He played 139 games that season and hit .247 with 22 homers and 64 RBIs. He won his fourth Gold Glove and was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting catcher in the AL for the first time, while also being an All-Star for the fourth time. However, the Royals fell back in the standings and missed the postseason, and then sank back to the bottom over the next two seasons, 2017 and 2018, as most of the players who had led the team to back-to-back World Series were gone or had seen their production fall significantly. Perez was an exception, as he was an All-Star both years and added both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award the second. In 2017, he hit .268 with 27 homers and 80 RBIs and in 2018 he was at .235, also with 27 homers and 80 RBIs, playing 129 games both years.
He had clearly settled into a groove by that point, but he was derailed by an injury in the early days of spring training in 2019. He was diagnosed with ligament damage on March 1st and the recommendation was that he undergo Tommy John surgery, meaning that he would miss the entire season, something that was confirmed a few days later. He did miss the season, but when he came back in 2020, he was better than ever, hitting .333 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 37 games during the abbreviated season. That earned him the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award in addition to his third Silver Slugger Award as the best hitting catcher in the league. It wasn't all smooth sailing though as he missed the start of resumed training camp because he tested positive for COVID-19, and then another three weeks during the season because of an eye infection. In 2021, he was supposed to play the final year of his contract before becoming a free agent, but on March 21st, he and the Royals agreed on a four-year extension worth $82 million - a franchise record. He was already the franchise leader for games at catcher and the deal made it very likely that he would end up spending his entire career in a Royals uniform.
Perez picked up in 2021 exactly where he had left off the year before - except that he was healthy all season. As a result, he put up the best numbers of his career, leading to seventh participation in the All-Star Game. He reached the 30-homer mark for the first time of his career on August 15th, but he was just getting started as he added another 8 dingers before the end of the month, including homers in five consecutive games from August 25-29. On September 4th, he added two more to reach the 40 mark. It was just the eighth season in history in which a player had hit 40 homers while primarily playing catcher, with Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza responsible for two each. Interestingly, Perez was the first to do so in the American League. The season record of 45, set by Bench in 1970, was within reach, as was the Royals' single-season record of 48, set by Jorge Soler in 2019. He also passed long-time teammate Alex Gordon for fourth place on the team's all-time list, with 192. He tied Bench's mark with a homer on September 16th that also put him in a three-way tie for the AL and major league lead with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Shohei Ohtani. On September 21st, he hit #46 against the Cleveland Indians to pass Bench and also to take sole possession of the major league lead. One caveat about his "record" was that he had actually hit only 31 of his homers as a catcher, the rest coming as a DH, so he was actually well shy of the record for homers by an actual catcher, which was held by Javy Lopez, who had hit 42 of his 43 homers in 2003 while toiling behind the dish. He tied Soler's team record with his 48th homer on September 29th, which was the total he finished with, tied with Guerrero for the major league lead. One interesting tidbit was that he drew only 28 walks, giving him the second-highest homer-to-walk ratio for anyone hitting 40 or more dingers in a season, at 1.71 to 1. Only Dante Bichette, who had slugged 40 homers while walking only 22 times in 1995 had ever posted a higher ratio. Given the weakness of the rest of the Royals line-up, one would think opposite pitchers would have wanted to pitch around him a bit more. He won his 4th Silver Slugger Award after the season.
- 7-time AL All-Star (2013-2018 & 2021)
- 2015 World Series MVP
- 2020 AL Comeback Player of the Year Award
- 5-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2013-2016 & 2018)
- 4-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2016, 2018, 2020 & 2021)
- AL Home Runs Leader (2021)
- AL RBI Leader (2021)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (2015-2018 & 2021)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2021)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2021)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2021)
- Won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals (2015)
- Anthony Castrovince: "Perez voted unanimous World Series MVP: Seventh catcher to take home Fall Classic award", mlb.com, November 2, 2015. 
- Jeffrey Flanagan: "Salvy needs Tommy John surgery, out for 2019", mlb.com, March 6, 2019. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Royals’ Salvador Perez's mom carjacked days before extension", USA Today Sports, March 1, 2016. 
- Anne Rogers: "Royals sign Salvy to 4-year extension: 'I wanted to stay here': Catcher inks for franchise-record $82 million", mlb.com, March 21, 2021. 
- Anne Rogers: "Salvy hits another Bench-mark with 45th HR: All-Star catcher matches Reds legend for homers in a season", mlb.com, September 16, 2021.