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AZ SnakePit Awards: Unsung hero - David Peralta

Our unsung hero of 2015 is last season's rookie of the year, David Peralta picking up 42% of the votes, twice as many as any other candidate.

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The story of David Peralta continues to be a remarkable one, that doesn't grow stale with retelling. A failed pitching prospect in the Cardinals' organization, he returned to his home country of Venezuela and re-invented himself as an outfielder. Returning the United States, he couldn't catch on with any franchise, so ended up signing for the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings of the independent North American League - an organization which had already folded by the time Peralta made his major-league debut. The outfielder worked in McDonalds to buy gas so he could drive from Florida to Texas and join the team.

He went from there to the Wichita Wingnuts and was spotted by D-backs indy scout, Chris Carminucci, leading to David joining our minor-league system. Peralta made his debut for Class A Visalia in July 2013. Less than two years later, he was batting clean-up for the Diamondbacks at the major-league level. For David achieved his major-league debut on June 1, 2014 and made a good impression over the second-half of the season as the rookie turned 27, batting .286 with eight home-runs in 88 games. That was enough to get him a roster spot this season, albeit as our fourth outfielder - on Opening Day, our outfield was Mark Trumbo, A.J. Pollock and Ender Inciarte.

Peralta started only 11 games in April, but was already occupying the clean-up spot in many of those, his left-handed bat following Paul Goldschmidt in the line-up. David put up a robust .872 OPS that month, and the trade of Trumbo to the Seattle Mariners on June 3 opened the door for Peralta to see sharply increased playing time. In June, he started 22 games, and was demonstrating a better eye at the plate. In his rookie season, David walked just 4.6% of the time (for comparison, Chris Owings' career walk-rate = 5.1%), but through the end of June 2015, Peralta had more than doubled that, to 9.9%. He was just warming up, however...

For David was hotter than an Arizona summer in the second-half of the year, beginning with the first game after the All-Star break, where he had three hits and seven total bases. His second-half batting average of .360 trailed only Joey Votto in the majors (min. 100 PA), and was 25 points better than any other D-backs player had ever hit after the break (again, with 100+ PA). It wasn't just hits either; the 'Freight Train' as he was nicknamed, had an on-base percentage of above .400, and his .977 OPS in the second-half was the best in a decade by a Diamondback. Know how good Goldie was after the break? Peralta's OPS was 46 points higher.

It's safe to say that if his season halves had been reversed, he could have received a berth in the midsummer classic, completing a remarkable transformation from washed-up pitcher to All-Star outfielder. Instead, he'll have to settle for effusive praise from Chip Hale: "He’s improved immensely to be able to hit behind Goldy now. He knows how to handle the situations. He goes up there every at-bat with a plan. He knows what the pitcher is going to try to do to him, which is completely different from the start of the year. He was basically trying to do one thing and that was to hit it to right field. Now he’s using the whole field. So it makes him a very difficult at-bat for any pitcher."

Peralta's hustle was already legendary - as well as the 2014 Rookie of the Year, he won Play of the Year last season for his steal of home, and followed that up this time by becoming the first Diamondback since 2010 to reach double-digits in triples. Even when David was fooled by an outfielder into a baserunning gaffe, Hale couldn't bring himself to criticize the player: "For me he's the last guy I ever worry about not hustling. I just wanted him to let it go." Peralta went 5-for-5 on August 9, part of an 11-game stretch where he batted .500, going 19-for-38, and also improved against left-handed pitching, batting a solid enough .250 there for the entire season.

It's likely that David's continued growth over the past year, has helped diminish chatter about the team needing to make a trade for someone to protect Paul Goldschmidt in the line-up. With the departure of Ender Inciarte, he'll be even further up the pecking order for th 2016 outfield, and will likely say more playing time than ever before, as our everyday left-fielder. While the .368 BABIP he enjoyed in 2015 is probably not likely to be repeated next year, he looks set to be a very sold contributor, and as someone not even arbitration eligible until 2018, a very valuable member of what should be a potent Diamondbacks offense.