The St. Louis Cardinals Delvin Perez putting past behind him

As we continue our look back at the first-round Almost Mock Draft picks, we focus at another top ten talent that slipped all the way to the back end of the 2016 MLB Draft. While the first player to slip fell because of questionable mechanics and where he fits in as a reliever or starter, the second slipped because of his own doing, getting caught in the evil baseball underworld of PEDs just days before the draft.

Somehow, the St. Louis Cardinals were able to get both.

And per usual in the Cardinals farm system, they are both performing very well.

Almost Mock Draft: No. 7 — Miami Marlins | Actual MLB Draft: No. 23 — St. Louis Cardinals

In the weeks leading up to the draft, no infielder had more intrigue than 17-year-old Delvin Perez. Perez played his high school ball at Puerto Rico’s acclaimed International Baseball Academy, where reigning American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa hails from as well. The unfair comparisons between Perez and Correa seemingly started upon his enrollment, and while those lofty expectations are achievable for Perez, they are a lot less likely.

Perez is a speed demon, some grading him as high as 70 on the scouting charts while MLB Pipeline has him at a grade of 60. This has helped Perez throughout his career both offensively and defensively. Arguably the best defensive first-round talent, only Nick Senzel projected as a higher infield draft prospect, and that was due to a big bat and experience.

Armed with a canon of an arm, good instincts and the aforementioned speed that gives him outstanding range, Perez skyrocketed up the charts. Despite a bat that was a bit behind the defense-first shortstop, Perez exhibited all the tools needed to convince people he was a middle infielder for good.

Then came the reports of the failed drug test. As Perez told Fox Sports after being caught:

Perez said a friend gave him the banned substance ‘to not lose weight and to stay healthy.’ He called it ‘an ignorant mistake.’

Perez said he wasn’t worried about failing the pre-draft drug test.

‘I didn’t have any fear, because I was sure I wasn’t going to test positive,” Perez said through an interpreter. ‘Again, I repeat I didn’t know what I was taking.’

Unfortunately for Perez, it was a bit of a boy who cried wolf situation. Many before him have used the excuse that they didn’t know what they were taking that it has become commonplace as the go-to excuse when a professional athlete gets nabbed for using performance-enhancers. Perez, freshly 17 years old at the time, however, very likely didn’t understand what he was taking. The Cardinals felt that way as well, and gambled on him, taking him 23rd overall.

Perez signed quickly for the whole slot value of $2,222,500 and a week later he was in the Gulf Coast League. His career started off surprisingly fast on the offensive side of the plate. He went 5-for-8 in his first two games, walking twice, striking out zero times and stealing two bases. Perez, like many international hitters, was known for trouble with the breaking stuff, and a bat wrap in his stance made him longer and loopier from the get-go. This discipline at the plate was promising.

He hit in 10 of his first 12 games, but the walks started to disappear and the strikeouts began to rise. He obviously could not sustain the success of his first two debut games and has cooled off quite a bit, but he is still putting up good numbers for someone who is three months shy of his 18th birthday.

For more on the young shortstop, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below:

Delvin Perez proving to be a worthwhile gamble

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