The Yankees are creating a position battle at shortstop among several prospects and veteran Isiah Kiner-Falefa. A fair fight makes the most sense between Oswald Peraza, Kiner-Falefa, and Anthony Volpe, but naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages depending on the player.
Volpe has no MLB experience and could use a few weeks at the AAA level with Scranton. Peraza enjoyed 18 games of regular season action last year over a few postseason appearances, but he may be a bit raw at this point in his career, as well. IKF has the most experience of the bunch, but we know his vulnerabilities and where his talent is capped.
With that being said, each player has pros and cons, but Peraza does have a slight advantage based on his potential and the elite defensive qualities we experienced over a small sample size in 2022.
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The Yankees would prefer Oswald Peraza takes the SS job:
In fact, it seems as if the team is quietly hoping he dominates during spring training and locks up the job without much of a fight. IKF battling and making it a competition may end up ruining their youth movement and projected plans, but Peraza will likely put together a better defensive performance. Offensively, Peraza hit .306 with a .404 OBP across 57 at-bats last year, but those numbers are expected to even out based on his career averages at the minor-league level.
Elite defense and even average offense would go a long way toward winning Oswald the job, which is what the Yankees are hoping for so they can utilize IKF in a utility role or move his $6 million salary and reallocate the funds elsewhere.
Per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, the Yankees would prefer for Oswald Peraza to win the job:
The sense is that the Yankees would love to see Peraza resoundingly win the job this spring, which would allow them to shift Kiner-Falefa into more of a utility role and provide Volpe with additional development time. Volpe logged just 99 plate appearances at Triple-A last season, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him begin the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and be in the mix for a midseason callup.
Some view IKF as a quality defensive player. Some metrics suggest he wasn’t as bad as people thought at shortstop in 2022. The eye test would suggest otherwise, considering he skipped a ton of throws in the dirt, asking Anthony Rizzo to pick up the slack.
However, his 10 defensive runs saved above average certainly stand out as a positive metric. Offensively, he’s limited by his lack of power, something that Peraza can supplement.
Spring training will offer us a great look at the different players vying for the starting job, but this is a position battle that could carry on into the regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised if manager Aaron Boone played a hot-hand strategy instead of cementing a starter at the beginning of the year.