The New York Yankees have a few big decisions to make in the infield this upcoming season, especially with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the roster.
General manager Brian Cashman has had a difficult time offloading some of the bigger contracts on the team, notably players that failed to make a significant impact in 2022. Donaldson put together a stellar defensive season but struggled offensively, and considering he’s set to earn $21 million next year, saving a bit of his salary seems to be an obvious move.
The Yankees elected to retain IKF on a one-year, $6 million deal, but starting him at shortstop for a second consecutive season would be malpractice. The team expects to curate a position battle at shortstop with IKF, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe entering the mix.
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The Yankees are banking on Anthony Volpe rising to the occasion:
However, according to Michael Kay of the YES Network, Cashman called Volpe personally to challenge him ahead of spring training. Essentially, the Yankees’ GM indicated that Volpe has a prime opportunity to steal the starting job away from Peraza, who showed elite glove work at the position over a small sample size last year.
Specifically, Peraza played 89 innings at the Major League level with the Bombers, putting together a perfect fielding percentage. He projects to be a better defensive player compared to Volpe, who is only 21 years old and struggled at times at shortstop last season with Somerset and Scranton. Volpe featured a .971 feeling percentage across both teams, giving up two errors across 21 games in Triple-A and 11 in Double-A. There’s an argument to make he needs a bit more time to develop his skills before transitioning to the big leagues, but his offensive qualities are certainly elevating quickly.
While the Yankees’ top prospect labored to start the 2022 season with Somerset, hitting a measly .207 with a 29.7% on-base rate in May, he finished with a .296 average at 41.6% on-base rate in July before elevating to Triple-A.
His numbers took an obvious downturn once he joined a higher weight class in Scranton, hitting .236 with a 31.3% OBP, but it is obvious he’s like fine wine, he gets better over time. In fact, over his last three games against the Buffalo Bisons, he tallied four hits and a home run, further justifying his quality. When he first joined Scranton, he recorded six consecutive games with a hit, tallying 11 in that timeframe.
Spring training will commence the team’s position battle at shortstop, but Volpe is ready to showcase what he’s capable of. Peraza will be difficult to fend off given his experience, especially in the ALCS against the Houston Astros in a high-leverage moment, turning multiple impressive defensive plays. Nonetheless, whoever showcases the better bat may ultimately secure the job, even if Volpe puts together an average defensive display.