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40 in 40: Cameron Perkins

A new fringe outfielder for you to love

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

If there’s one way that a player can guarantee to have my full support, it’s to be a fringey outfielder. Casper Wells, Cole Gillespie, Daniel Robertson, Jacob Hannemann... each and every one of these players wormed their way into my heart to some degree. Although most of their contributions were fairly limited, the memories - however distant - live on.

Cameron Perkins is the next in line for filling the lovable fringey outfield spot. After spending his entire career in the Phillies organization, he was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in mid-December. Perkins cracked the majors for the first time this year, but scuffled to just a 32 wRC+ over 97 plate appearances, with almost a quarter of those ending in a strikeout. His minor league track record is strong, though, and his ability to play all three outfield spots makes him an attractive depth option.

After Seattle drafted Perkins in the late rounds in 2009, he attended Purdue University, where he was taken in the 6th round in the 2012 draft by the Phillies. After signing, he steadily climbed the minors, culminating in destroying Double-A to the tune of a 153 wRC+ in 2014. This was enough to earn him a promotion to Lehigh Valley, although he struggled mightily in his first taste of Triple-A action. He hit the ball into the ground more often than any point in his career aside from his 2012 stint in short-season A, the plate discipline gains he showed in Double-A cratered, and the .082 ISO he put up was the worst of his career.

In 2015, he was sent back to Reading, where he played well despite a deflated .264 BABIP. He was brought back up to Triple-A in 2016, and hasn’t looked back since. Although his plate discipline took a little while to come back, he put up the best walk rate of his career in 2017 at 10.2%. He has never struck out very often, running a career minor league K-rate of just 14.2%, and if the improvements in plate discipline he showed are legitimate, he could be an undervalued weapon.

Throughout his career, Perkins has primarily been a pull hitter, although he can poke the ball the other way on occasion. I was surprised to find that he didn’t generate much soft contact in his brief time in the Majors, and lowered his pop-up rate dramatically. That’s good! Unfortunately, just over half of his batted balls were on the ground, and medium- and hard-hit grounders are much more likely to be outs than their softly-hit counterparts. That’s bad. If Perkins can figure out how to elevate his swing just a little more, he could unlock more of that potential he has shown in the past.

Although Perkins doesn’t have a ton of power, he can occasionally put a charge into his swing, as shown by this blast in Triple-A. He also hit his first Major League home run last year:

Perkins is best suited in left field, but he can fill in at center, and will make the occasional flashy play, such as this awesome grab in center for Lehigh Valley:

Here he is robbing Kyle Seager of a double:

While Perkins figures to spend much of the 2018 season with the Rainiers, he will likely receive a call up or two should the need for his services arise. He has the added bonus of being on the 40-man roster (for now), so his arrival wouldn’t necessitate another move. While the M’s are optimistic that Guillermo Heredia will be ready to go for spring training, should that not be the case, Perkins could open the year as the team’s fourth outfielder. As of now, though, he figures to be among the first of the depth options brought up in the event of injuries, and will join a Tacoma outfield along with Ian Miller, Andrew Aplin, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.