Peraza refining skills in winter ball in Venezuela

Peraza refining skills in winter ball in Venezuela

CINCINNATI -- While many of his teammates are getting settled in for their offseason and resting their bodies after the grind of a 162-game schedule, Reds infielder Jose Peraza took very little time off.

Peraza joined his Venezuelan winter ball club, Magallanes, on Saturday and played in his first game on Tuesday. He was 2-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base and a run scored.

"I need to be more consistent, offensively," Peraza said via translator Julio Morillo on Sept. 30. "So I'm going to go back to Venezuela and play winter ball and hopefully make the adjustments to be better next year."

Peraza was expected to take over at shortstop before the 2017 season, but the Reds were unable to find a trade partner for Zack Cozart. Upon the deal that unloaded Brandon Phillips and $13 million in cash to the Braves on the eve of Spring Training's opening, Peraza was installed as the regular second baseman by Cincinnati.

Not dealing Cozart benefitted the Reds, as the veteran enjoyed a career year and his first All-Star season. But Peraza, who turned 23 on April 30, struggled to find a groove at the plate. In 143 games overall, he batted .259/.297/.324 with five home runs and 37 RBIs.

Just after the All-Star break, on July 21, Peraza lost his starting spot to Scooter Gennett who ended up having a career year himself. But Peraza put in some extra time behind the scenes with coaches Don Long and Tony Jaramillo and also watched video of Rockies All-Star Nolan Arenado to get a similar rhythm to his swing at the plate.

A quad injury that landed Cozart on the disabled list enabled Peraza to get more playing time and put his extra work into play on the field. Over his final 48 games from July 27, he batted .293 with a .361 on-base percentage. In those 133 plate appearances, he drew 13 walks compared to five walks over 336 plate appearances in the first half.

"I tried to focus, that if I'm going to swing, it's going to be the pitch that I want," Peraza said. "I was able to see more pitches, be more selective and it helped at the plate."

The shortstop situation in Cincinnati remains somewhat fluid heading into the winter. Cozart is a free agent and both he and the club are open to a return. Of course, salary demands and Cozart's desire to play for a contender reduce his chances of being back.

That would leave Peraza as the most likely player to step up at shortstop. He played 55 games there, with 48 starts, last season. Although his first winter league game was at second base, he planned on immersing himself at shortstop so he could also make improvements defensively. According to Fangraphs, among Major League shortstops with at least 250 innings played, Peraza ranked near the bottom defensively.

"I'm preparing myself. I'm going to play shortstop there because I want to be ready for next year," Peraza said. "I don't think it's one thing I have to work on. But playing down there and playing shortstop every day will give me a better idea of how to play here in the big leagues for next year." 

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.