Perkins' growth takes next step at WBC

Rockies prospect strives for improvement with Australia

Perkins' growth takes next step at WBC

DENVER -- Australian catcher Robbie Perkins' defensive leadership began to match his notable throwing arm last year at Class A Asheville. His confidence can only grow when he suits up for Australia in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round Feb. 11-14 at Blacktown International Sportspark in Sydney, Australia.

In 40 games last year, Perkins threw out 31-of-76 (40.8 percent) would-be basestealers in his first full Minor League season. Granted, stolen-base attempts in the low Minors can be astronomical compared to the Majors, but among Major League catchers who appeared in at least 100 games last year, just three -- the Blue Jays' Russell Martin, the Nationals' Wilson Ramos and the Cardinals' Yadier Molina -- had a higher percentage than Perkins.

Combined with his work at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2013 and Short Season A Tri-City in 2014, he has erased 54 of 154 baserunners, a workable 35.1 percent. So throwing ability is a nice calling card for Perkins, who turns 22 on May 29.

"I would say he's a weapon behind home plate with the way he can throw the baseball," Rockies Minor League catching coordinator Mark Strittmatter said. "He's a plus thrower, a plus receiver and blocker, and he's young.

"Not only is he an all-around good defender, but he came out of his shell with his leadership qualities. He was much more vocal as a leader of the defense behind the plate and as a leader of the pitching staff."

Offense is next for Perkins, who's from Canberra, Australia. He has a .189 batting average and .258 on-base percentage in 114 Minor League games, and hit .189 with a .291 OBP with Canberra in the Australian Baseball League this winter. To increase his versatility and to reduce wear and tear, Perkins has played outfield as well as catcher in Australia this winter and last.

Perkins has generally been on the young side for his league, and he's still growing. Strittmatter said he was about 160 pounds when he came to the U.S., but he's now around 190, with some filling out to do. But Strittmatter believes Perkins can make strides when he takes his behind-the-plate attitude to the batter's box.

"When Robbie takes batting practice, it's a very good one, very powerful," Strittmatter said. "Then when we get to the game, he's often someone looking for that perfect pitch, instead of being ready to hit a pitch. He is so good defensively, and you see that positive energy and confidence. In the batter's box, you see a guy that's not confident. He just needs to get out of his shell and be aggressive, because with his strength, he can do some nice things."

The winner of the qualifier, which features Australia, New Zealand, Philippines and South Africa, will advance to compete in spring 2017 in the fourth edition of the WBC, which features many of the world's greatest players.

Additional qualifiers are set for Estadio B Air in Mexicali, Mexico on March 17-20 (Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Nicaragua); Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City, Panama on March 17-20 (Colombia, France, Panama, Spain); and MCU Park in Brooklyn, New York on Sept. 22-25 (Brazil, Great Britain, Israel, Pakistan).

Qualifiers will feature a six-game, modified double-elimination format.The four winners of each qualifier will advance to WBC in March 2017 to join 12 countries that qualified based on their 2013 WBC performances -- Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Japan, Korea, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, United States and Venezuela.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.