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Former first-rounder Delvin Perez among 16 Cardinals minor-leaguers to elect free agency

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Cardinals minor-league spring training day four in Jupiter

Cardinal minor-league infielder Delvin Perez right takes batting practice on Thursday, March 10, 2022, during day four of minor-league spring training at the practice facility in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Christian Gooden,

Delvin Perez — a 23-year-old shortstop and former first-round draft pick by the Cardinals — was one of 16 minor-leaguers to elect free agency on Friday. The moves were listed on the various Cardinals’ minor-league affiliate transaction pages.

As a 17-year-old from Puerto Rico, Perez was the No. 23 overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft. He reached the Class AAA level for the first time in his career this past season and played in six seasons within the Cardinals’ farm system. In his minor-league career, he batted .250 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .322 slugging percentage.

Perez was ranked as high as No. 8 on some draft prospects lists, but a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug that he took to help him add weight before the draft led him to slip down the board far enough for the Cardinals to take him at No. 23. He received a $2.2-million bonus.

In 2017, Baseball America ranked Perez as the third-best prospect in the Cardinals system and, three years later, he was rated as having the best infield arm. But offensive struggles this past season and the rise of another shortstop prospect in Masyn Winn added obstacles in a potential path to the majors for the Puerto Rico native.

After Perez hit .265 in 98 Class games in 2021, Perez began 2022 season at the same level and struggled out of the gate with a .222 average and a .324 on-base percentage in 50 games.

Winn's arrival from Class High-A to Class AA near the end of May displaced Perez from his natural shortstop position and led him to transition to playing second and third base along with getting time in the outfield. Perez was promoted to Class AAA in June and batted .224 in 45 games.

The other Cardinals minor-league players that elected free agency on Friday included pitchers T.J. McFarland, Johan Quezada, Garrett Williams, Ljay Newsome, Zach McAllister, Jacob Bosiokovic, Tyler Pike, Domingo Robles, and Enrique Saldana.

Position players Austin Allen, Julio E. Rodriguez, Roberto Baldoquin, Clint Coulter, Cory Spangenberg, and Brady Whalen all elected free agency as well.

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