PHOENIX — How out-of-nowhere has the ascent of Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta been? So much, apparently, teammates can’t recall sharing a dugout with him in spring training.
"I don’t even remember seeing him," said Paul Goldschmidt, the NL All-Star team’s starting first baseman.
Peralta played in four Cactus League games and had three at-bats. Now, he is the D-backs everyday left fielder, a story about as improbable as they come. Peralta added to it Monday with a double, a triple and three RBI in the D-backs’ 8-1 win over the Marlins.
"I’ve been working hard every day trying to do my thing, trying to do the right things," Peralta said. "It’s going well right now. I’m just living the dream."
Peralta ranks among the NL’s top rookies, even after just 32 games in the majors. Peralta’s .471 slugging percentage is tops among NL rookies with at least 100 plate appearances, and his .331 batting average ranks second only to Mets outfielder Eric Campbell’s .337.
Peralta’s 40 hits in 126 plate appearances leave him third among NL rookies, behind teammate Chris Owings (66) and Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton (84), both of whom have more than twice as many games and plate appearances. His .357 on-base percentage ranks fourth and his 15 RBI are sixth.
Yet, somehow, Peralta has done it all well under the radar. It surely has something to do with the D-backs’ overall performance, which has them 15 games under .500 and last in the NL West. But it also has to do with Peralta’s low profile.
He was never a top prospect with can’t-miss expectations or impressive minor league feats — though he was tied for the Double-A lead in RBI with highly-regarded Cubs prospect Kris Bryant before his call-up on June 1. No, Peralta was virtually off the radar altogether.
By now, Peralta’s path to the majors has been well documented but bears repeating. After he was signed out of Venezuela as a pitcher by the Cardinals in 2006, Peralta battled multiple shoulder injuries and was released in 2009. He decided to come back as a hitter.
After spending parts of three seasons in independent ball, Peralta caught on with the D-backs a year ago last Thursday. His ascent, facilitated by an injury to center fielder A.J. Pollock, has taken the D-backs by surprise. But he has their attention now.
"We didn’t even know much about him," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "I remember seeing him in spring training a little bit, and he played that way when he came over. He opened our eyes."
Monday’s performance was Peralta’s third multi-hit game in his last six and his second with at least three RBI. On the one-year anniversary of his signing with the D-backs, Peralta went 3 for 5 with a home run and four RBI against the Pirates.
Hitting second in the order the past five games in front of Goldschmidt, who also came to the majors straight from Double-A, Peralta is creating ample opportunities. He reached scoring position in his first three at-bats Monday and scored twice.
"It’s been unbelievable," Goldschmidt said. "I feel like him and (Ender) Inciarte are on base every time. Whenever your guys at the top of the order are getting on, the offense should go pretty well."
While 32 games is a small sample size by which to judge Peralta’s big league viability, he may very well have written himself into the D-backs’ plans going forward.
Mark Trumbo, soon to return from a broken foot, and Pollock, out until at least mid August, seem certain pieces of the D-backs outfield moving forward. If Peralta keeps hitting the way he has, he might just overtake Gerardo Parra as the big-league club’s third outfielder.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the D-backs return Peralta to the minor leagues this season, assuming he keeps hitting. It would have been even harder to imagine him having such success in the majors when the D-backs signed him a year ago and sent him to High-A Visalia.
Even Peralta admits he could not have imagined himself arriving here so quickly. It was the goal all along, he says, and he kept working hard to achieve it.
"It’s paying off right now, so I’m just enjoying my time here," Peralta said.
As he quietly tore through the minors, the D-backs took notice, and he might just be here for a while.
"We saw what he was doing down there, so when the organization talked about who to bring up we thought he was the guy," Gibson said. "We knew what he was about and how he played the game, and we knew his swing. To come up from Double-A and do what he’s doing is pretty impressive though."