The New York Yankees are expected to create a position battle between Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, but Isiah Kiner-Falefa will also be in the mix after a tumultuous 2022 season. Volpe will likely need a few weeks with Triple-A Scranton to gain momentum before making the jump to the majors.
Peraza experienced 18 games of action at the end of the 2022 campaign, hitting .306 with a 40.6% OBP, one homer, and two RBIs. Defensively, he was electric, notably against the Houston Astros in the ALCS.
It is possible that Kiner-Falefa, 27, regains to starting job if he performs well during spring training, but the odds are stacked against him given the Yankees would prefer to utilize their young prospects. IKF hit .261 with a 31.4% on-base rate this past season, including four homers and 48 RBIs. Contact-hitting is essential, but his weak contact isn’t ideal. He’s not known as a slugger by any means, but the team was hoping he would be a bit more consistent defensively.
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With the MLB banning the shift, having rangy infielders is a necessity — IKF does have that attribute.
Defensively, he logged a .970 fielding percentage with 15 errors last season across nearly 1200 innings. He posted 10 defensive runs saved above average but -2 outs above average, showcasing polarizing statistics that indicate inconsistency.
Having signed a one-year, $6 million extension, the Yankees can’t afford to keep him on the bench as a reserve option. The more likely scenario is that he is traded if Peraza wins the starting shortstop job, especially if they plan to elevate Volpe at some point.
According to Bryan Hoch of MLB Network, the Yankees could move Kiner-Falefa if he loses the shortstop position battle.
Peraza will get a real chance to win the job, and if he does, they’ll have to trade Kiner-Falefa. He’s earning $6 million this year, which is too much to keep him on the bench as a fill-in.
The Yankees will have to make some moves:
While management is extremely high on Volpe, it is possible he ends up starting his professional career at second base, especially if they plan to trade Gleyber Torres by the deadline next summer. For now, Torres’s job seems to be safe, with DJ LeMahieu fending off a toe injury that could impact him next year.
Nonetheless, Peraza has the athleticism and slugging prowess to be a solid infielder at the professional level. His Steamer projections indicate he will record a 105 wRC+, hitting .249 with a 31% on-base rate, eight homers, and 31 RBIs. He may not get on base as much as IKF, which is still a slim amount, but he will offer the team far more power and excellent defense at shortstop.
Given IKF was always supposed to be a stopgap, the team would prefer to go with a young player, similar to how the Houston Astros injected Jeremy Peña at the shortstop position. He ended up winning the World Series MVP award.