3 interesting non-roster invite players in Pirate camp

It's worth keeping an eye on these three non-roster invitees in camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two
San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Rich Schultz/GettyImages
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Joe Perez

Joe Perez was originally a second-round pick by the Houston Astros in 2017. But he never seemed to find his way in the Astro system. Houston released him in early August of 2023, but the Pirates picked him up the next week on a minor league deal. He went on a tear to end the year, and the Pirates are bringing him into camp as a NRI.

Perez batted just .255/.328/.399 with a .328 wOBA for the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate prior to getting released. Perez struck out at a 27.2% rate and had a 9.5% walk rate. However, a .145 isolated slugging percentage was not turning heads for a prospect whose power was his calling card. Keep in mind this was in the Pacific Coast League, where having a .830 OPS only makes you about the league average. With this in mind, Perez’s wRC+ clocked in at a lowly 75 in 357 plate appearances, the third lowest among all PCL batters with 350+ trips to the plate.

But Perez seemed to turn on the jets after signing with the Pirates. Through his final 145 plate appearances with Altoona and Indy, Perez batted .317/.434/.592. The power started to come around with an impressive .275 remark. His walk rate rose significantly to 15.8%, while his strikeout rate dipped below a quarter at 24.8%. Perez had a .451 wOBA and 174 wRC+ for the Pirates’ two affiliates combined.

Perez has plus raw power and plays all four corners of the infield and outfield, but he isn’t considered a great defender. He’ll probably report back to Triple-A, but I hope he can continue his tear in the second half of last season. Most of his damage was done at Altoona, where 107 of his PAs came from, so hopefully, he can show some improvement at Triple-A.