D-backs' Perez thrives at, behind plate in AFL opener

D-backs' Perez thrives at, behind plate in AFL opener

After a breakout season in which he reached Triple-A for the first time, Michael Perez made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball on Tuesday in his Arizona Fall League debut.

Perez, an Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand, went 2-for-2 with an early two-run double and also threw out an attempted basestealer to help lead Salt River past Surprise, 4-3, on the AFL's Opening Day.

"It feels good, feels awesome," Perez said following the win. "This is my first year in the Fall League, and it was a good first day. I worked all year for this opportunity."

Salt River's Braxton Lee and Victor Reyes opened the game with back-to-back singles ahead of Brian Mundell, who put the Rafters on the board when he pushed across Lee on a ground-ball double play.

Surprise responded with three consecutive singles to begin the bottom half of the first inning, with Oscar Mercado plating leadoff man Nicky Lopez with a line-drive hit to left field. Chris Paul followed with another run-scoring single, giving the Saguaros the lead before recording an out.

The Rafters snatched the lead right back in their next trip to the plate on a two-run double by Perez that scored Ryan Mountcastle and Corey Ray. Ray, MLBPipeline.com's No. 58 overall prospect and No. 2 on the Brewers' Top 30, had hit an opposite-field double earlier in the frame.

Top Prospects: Ray, MIL

Perez's perfect showing at the plate follows an impressive regular-season campaign in which he posted a career-best .279/.365/.424 line over 80 games with Double-A Jackson before advancing to Triple-A Reno and going 4-for-9 with three extra-base hits in three games. He also went 3-for-3 in his lone playoff start for the Aces.

"It took a little time, but this year I stayed more focused and stayed more consistent, looking for my pitch and staying with my plan. [Jackson manager] J.R. House really helped me a lot, too," said the 25-year-old catcher.

Gameday

Altogether, Perez set career highs with six home runs and 24 doubles and cut down 35 percent of attempted basestealers, his best mark in a full-season campaign.

The top of the sixth inning saw Salt River add to its lead, as Lucas Erceg hit a leadoff double before coming around to score when Mercado misplayed Peter Mooney's single to center field.

Erceg, Milwaukee's No. 10 prospect, would add another double in the top of the eighth inning to finish the game 2-for-2.

Top Prospects: Erceg, MIL

Paul (Twins) went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, while Mercado (Cardinals' No. 18), Lopez (Royals' No. 11) and Yanio Perez (Rangers' No. 11) all finished with two hits apiece. Brandon Lowe (Rays' No. 13) also had a strong game, going 1-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored.

On the mound for the Saguaros, starter Sandy Alcantara (Cardinals' No. 9) allowed three earned runs on four hits and two walks in two innings. Left-hander Tyler Jay (Twins' No. 8), on the other hand, impressed by tossing a perfect inning with two strikeouts in his Fall League debut.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.