Throughout the of the month of May, Jacksonville Suns outfielder/infielder Yefri Perez has led all of professional baseball (Major Leagues included), in stolen bases.
Currently Perez is tops in the game with 32 stolen bases through the first 46 games of the year, and he is joined in the top five in the game by Salem's Yoan Moncada (30), Fresno's Jay Gonzalez (27), Lynchburg's Greg Allen (26), and Hickory's Eric Jenkins (24).
Perez has proven to be a dynamic leadoff hitter at the top of the Suns batting order, leading the Suns with 30 runs scored. He has created a lot of opportunities for hitters behind him in the order like Austin Dean and J.T. Riddle to lead the Southern League in runs batted in during the first two months of the year.
Last season Perez finished second in Minor League Baseball with 71 stolen bases, but he is well ahead of last season's pace. In 2015 on May 27, Perez only had 14 stolen bases, and he's more than doubled that pace to start the 2016 campaign.
Perez spoke to the Suns Baseball Network about his solid first two months of the season in an interview at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Hoover: How have you felt about your start to the season?
Perez: I'm so happy to be here in Double-A in Jacksonville. I'm feeling good right now but I'm starting to feel better because we're starting to win. We had a great comeback in the Montgomery series, we were emotional about that win.
Hoover: You're talking about the game where the Suns trailed the Biscuits 8-3 going to the bottom of the ninth on May 18. The Suns rallied for five runs in the bottom of the ninth, and you tied the game with a two-RBI single, what do you remember about that at-bat?
Perez: I just tried to find my pitch and make something happen. And in that situation I didn't hit it very well but it worked!
Hoover: The Suns had lost some close games during the last road trip, so I'm sure it was nice to have a win like that, plus have a winning homestand.
Perez: It's better to play with the comfort of being with great teammates on a good ball club. I know in big situations my teammates are going to pick me up. And when you lose too many games, you don't always have that same confidence. But when you're winning you play with a better intensity.
Hoover: Has it been a big adjustment going from High-A baseball where you were the Jupiter Hammerheads last season, to playing this year with the Suns and going up against some older pitchers?
Perez: I know in this league, a lot of guys have been here for two or three years in a row. But I know I've been lucky to play with a lot of the same teammates for a lot of years in Single-A, High-A, now Double-A and that's good.
Hoover: I'm sure you also feel comfortable in the outfield with Austin Dean in left field, Moises Sierra in right, plus Jeremias Pineda has been solid at all three outfield spots, there's a lot of speed out there.
Perez: I like it. I feel like my teammates do the same things I do. I feel like I don't have to put pressure on myself, I know those guys do a really good job too.
Hoover: Is it different getting to play centerfield in Jacksonville with how deep it is to straight-away center at 420 feet, I imagine this is one of the bigger ballparks you've played in.
Perez: It's the biggest one in the league for sure. You have to run around so much, and especially in the gaps you have to cover so much ground.
Hoover: You've also been converted from being an infielder to an outfielder, we're still seeing you play in the infield some as well, what's your most comfortable defensive position?
Perez: I really feel comfortable in both. My regular position early in my career was infield, then a couple years later moved to the outfield, now getting to play a lot of both. I just tried to get prepared myself, and get my mind right especially in National League games. Then you have double-switches and I will move over to different spots, and I have to be ready for that.
Hoover: How many gloves do you keep with you to be ready for the different positions?
Perez: Just two, just an infield glove and and outfield glove.
Hoover: In terms of your hitting, you've done a great job getting on base at the top of the order and I'm sure you feel like that's why you've been able to steal so many bases.
Perez: That's the key. If I get on base, I've got a chance to steal a base. And that also gives my team a better chance to win.
Hoover: Do you have the "green light" to steal whenever you get on base?
Perez: Yeah I do. And the hitters behind me do a really good job when I'm on base. They don't swing when I'm about to steal.
The Suns look forward to teaming up with Fish Stripes all season long to give you these Jacksonville Suns reports. You can also find more information about the Suns by visiting our official website: jaxsuns.com, blog: sunsradio.com, Facebook page, Twitter page, and by listening to The Jacksonville Suns Podcast.