The Yankees did nothing notable at the trade deadline besides adding Kenyan Middleton and Spencer Howard to bolster the pitching depth, which has been met with plenty of criticism. All of it justified, as a World Series “contender” shouldn’t be buried in last place with zero reinforcements on the way to help a terrible offense. That being said, the Yankees do have some prospects in the higher level of MiLB that could help them this season at various positions. It may not change the Yankees’ fortunes much this year, but they could earn bigger roles on the 2024 team.
With the Yankees sporting one of the worst offenses in the league and having a rotation that’s been battered with injuries, these three names could get starting jobs as the season progresses, especially with expanded rosters in September that will allow the Yankees to add an extra pitcher and position player. This season may feel like a lost one for the Bronx Bombers, but these prospects are looking to make an impact on the big league club for this year and the future.
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It’s Time For the Yankees to Play Oswald Peraza
DJ LeMahieu is the Yankees’ projected starter at third base, and his 86 wRC+ and .306 OBP have certainly been disappointing for a team that expected him to stabilize the middle of their order. Oswald Peraza struggled in his 19 MLB games this season, sporting a 64 wRC+ and hitting just .173, although in 18 games last season, the former top-100 prospect gave the Yankees a 146 wRC+ and .404 OBP. Peraza’s still walking a lot and laying off bad pitches, but he just hasn’t found his swing in the big leagues yet.
An excellent and versatile defender, the 23-year-old infielder has a great arm alongside incredible speed and athleticism; it’s easy to see what people love about him defensively. Offensively, some of the tools are great, with an incredible 112.1 MPH Max Exit Velocity displaying untapped power potential but struggling in terms of generating sweet spots or barrels consistently. Two of the things Peraza does excel at are generating contact and working walks, which helps him overperform middling batted ball data.
With a 113 wRC+ in Scranton with the RailRiders, it’s not unreasonable to project a league-average offensive profile on the youngster. According to BaGS+, a batter game score metric that factors in other peripherals when quantifying offense and adjusting for age and the level they’re playing at. With a 161 BaGS+, his MLB equivalent is 121, which is the 22nd-best mark among all qualified MiLB hitters.
Oswald Peraza has a rifle of an arm at the hot corner, and while I still believe the Yankees should allow Peraza to play 2B and Volpe to play SS, whatever position they assign Peraza to will be defended masterfully. Steamer projects him for a 97 wRC+ on the season, which is not only better than what LeMahieu brings to the table but also provides the upside of being even better at the dish than projections think.
A better athlete and base runner, he also helps solve the Yankees’ issues in terms of speed and poor base running decisions, as he’s got 84th Percentile Sprint Speeds and has shown an impressive ability to swipe bags at the MLB and MiLB levels. The player comparison I’d like to make for Oswald Peraza would be Kolten Wong, the Cardinals’ long-time second baseman who had a 102 wRC+ from 2014-2022, posting 19.6 fWAR, which ranked among the top 10 for second baseman in that timespan.
If the Yankees get a player who routinely gives them 2.5-3 WAR from the second base position with slightly better-than-average offense, serves as a base-stealing weapon, and also provides elite-level defense, it’s a huge lift for that infield. Another reason the Yankees should have Peraza up as soon as possible has a lot to do with the future of Gleyber Torres with the New York Yankees.
This is a painful conversation to have, but the Yankees are likely going to move on from infielder Gleyber Torres at some point in the next two seasons. Barring an extension that seems unlikely, they’ll trade Torres in the offseason or let him walk in free agency following the 2024 season. Oswald Peraza needs to get chances to play in order to see if that’s the right call, giving the Yankees time to survey their options and see what decision is best for this team long-term.
Peraza giving them roughly a 95-100 wRC+ with great defense and base running could be the nail in the coffin for Torres, but a poor stretch could dismay them from trying the switch just yet. The season is far from over, and a hot August and September could make the Yankees reconsider whether they should move on from the 26-year-old infielder. A poor end to the season will affect his trade value, but they need to know if they’re willing to trust Peraza with the task of taking over for Gleyber Torres.
Whether it’s at second or third, they need to give him everyday reps right now, and every day the rookie stays in Triple-A is another day where the Yankees blow a prime opportunity to hold what is a little competition for Torres, Peraza and LeMahieu to fight for consistent infield reps not just in 2023, but going forward with the team.
Can Everson Pereira Solve LF for the Yankees?
Unlike Oswald Peraza, I don’t view Everson Pereira as Major League ready (yet), although the upside with his bat is beyond enticing. The 22-year-old outfielder has lit up the Minor Leagues this season, torching Double-A for a 144 wRC+ and Triple-A for a 131 wRC+, clubbing 15 HRs in the process but racking up plenty of whiffs and strikeouts. Pereira struggles with making consistent contact, but when he does, it’s usually well-struck with a barrel rat over 16% and an Average Exit Velocity of 94.7 MPH.
He has close to 70-grade Raw Power, and coupled with strong sprint speed data and defensive tools that allow him to play all three outfield spots, this could be one of the Yankees’ biggest contributors in the 2024 season. Add on the fact that he’s only 22 years old, and you see the reasons why Baseball America placed him in their top 100 prospect list. The month of August should serve as Pereira’s opportunity to showcase his skills in Scranton, as when rosters expand in September, Pereira’s placement on the 40-Man Roster could give him a path to the big leagues.
Brian Cashman mentioned Everson Pereira when discussing prospects who could help them this season, and the kid certainly has all the tools in the world to dominate the big leagues if he hones his plate discipline issues. He’s striking out at a 28.7% clip with a 35.6% Whiff Rate, and while I believe he’ll always strike out more than league average, he has to get his whiffs under control and work more walks in order for his approach to perfectly translate to the big league level.
The Yankees have one of the worst left-field groups in the league, ranking bottom five in fWAR and wRC+ at the position, and since the 2021 season, they’ve sported a putrid 89 wRC+. There really isn’t much at the Major League level in his way, and it feels like his inclusion on the 40-Man Roster indicates that the Yankees at least view him as a potential MLB contributor.
His BaGS+ of 158 with a 111 MLB equivalent could show MLB readiness today, but I’d opt to stay conservative with his development due to his youth. The Yankees have a potential long-term option here in the outfield, and while Jasson Dominguez is one of the best prospects in baseball, Pereira’s exploded as the Yankees’ closest prospect to getting outfield reps, and Pereira’s got the physical attributes to become a real star.
August is a huge month of Everson Pereira, and if he does his job, the Yankees could give a September audition for someone who could really help their lineup going forward. If he lives up to his high average and slugging numbers with solid speed and defense, he’ll provide a spark to their lineup that they desperately need. One of the big things I feel Pereira is going to do well is bring a different type of hitter for the Yankees.
An uber-aggressive hitter, Pereira is going up there looking to hit, and while it’ll limit his OBP ceiling, I think it’s possible he can slash .260/.320/.470 for the Yankees with more upside, and the Yankees will definitely take that from a left-field position that’s been absolutely terrible for this organization over the last three seasons.
Getting An Extended Look at Promising Young Starter
One of the more underrated prospects in their farm system, Randy Vásquez, possesses high-quality stuff but lacks the command to fully utilize his arsenal. After walking 8.3% of batters faced in 2022 and only 5.8% in 2023, it felt like he was poised for a huge season entering 2023. Unfortunately, his Triple-A numbers are subpar, but the issue across the International League and Triple-A has been the effects these new baseballs seem to have on pitchers.
Some pitchers are experiencing issues with generating carry on their fastball, and they also seem to be juiced, causing them to travel a lot further. He’s still developing his cutter, going from the firmer cutter he’s flashed to one with less ride and more of a gyro slider feel to it. The Stuff+ on the first cutter we saw him throw at the MLB level was better, and if he can figure out the shape and delivery of a cutter, he’ll have a really strong weapon against left-handed batters.
His sinker is a plus pitch with a 106 Stuff+, and his four-seam fastball clocks in at a 107 Stuff+, generating strong results on both early on. Vásquez has a walk problem, and that seems to stem from poor execution on two-strike counts, at least based on what we’ve seen at the MLB level. The average pitcher has a 42.5% strike-out rate in those counts, while Vásquez sits at 30.3%, and while he does possess an elite sweeper (132 Stuff+), he struggles to properly execute it on two strikes and locate it for a whiff.
A lot of these pitches are either uncompetitive or hung, and it’s leading to at-bats that don’t result in clean-and-easy strikeouts. Vásquez could benefit from simplifying his pitch mix, as he has three fastball variants, two breaking balls, and a changeup, but the Yankees would have to tinker with that based on the results they see at the Major League level. His stuff is undeniably good, with his changeup grading out as the only below-average pitch in his arsenal per Stuff+, and with the Yankees looking for starting depth, they could plug Vásquez into the rotation or bullpen.
Luis Severino looks just about done, Domingo German is out for the season as he deals with personal issues, and Clarke Schmidt is speeding toward an innings limit. The Yankees are going to need spot starts, and while Jhony Brito is another young starter in their system, Vásquez possesses some of the most upside. He could be a 14-15% K-BB% guy with solid groundball rates, making him a good backend starter with some serious upside.
If he isn’t a capable starter, the bullpen is a natural transition for him, as his devastating spin rates and unique arm slot is almost a lock to play well in a smaller workload. The Yankees could have him working as a reliever in September and getting comfortable with his arsenal the way Schmidt did last season, with 2024 being the year he looks to earn a spot in their rotation or at least on the pitching staff.
Similar to Pereira’s case, I think waiting until mid-August or September roster expansion would be best unless there’s an injury that expedites this process. I’m not sure if he’ll stick as a starter long-term, but Randy Vásquez has the pitch shapes and velocity to become an exciting name in the Yankee pitching staff for years to come.