With Josh Donaldson, who opened 2023 as the New York Yankees‘ starting third baseman, out of the picture, the team will have a full offseason to upgrade the position. They face a crucial 2024 that will reveal a lot about where the organization stands in comparison to other teams.
However, there are more pressing areas of need, like the outfield and starting pitching depth. If the Yankees decide to allocate more resources to these, they know that they can enter the 2024 campaign with the internal options they have at the hot corner: DJ LeMahieu and Oswald Peraza.
While it’s true that Peraza hasn’t received the same patience and overall chances as fellow young infielder Anthony Volpe, it’s also a reality that he hasn’t done much with his chances. In 52 games and 191 plate appearances in 2023, the Venezuelan shortstop hit .191/.267/.272 with two home runs, four stolen bases, and a well-below-average 53 wRC+.
However, Peraza seemed to be catching fire in September, perhaps finally adjusting to big-league pitching after a couple of years. He hit .250/.283/.398 with an 86 wRC+ from September 2 to the end of the regular season: still below average, but much better. He had a 12-game stretch in early September in which he slashed a cool .347/.347/.510 with a 137 wRC+.
The Yankees Have Options at the Hot Corner
There is still potential in his bat to be a slightly above-average hitter with acceptable power and speed to burn, and he is an excellent fielder. If the Yankees are patient, he could be their third baseman.
In case Peraza fails to develop, the Yanks have a veteran option under contract: DJ LeMahieu. The veteran infielder has slipped at the plate since his stellar 2019-20 run but was able to finish 2023 as a league-average hitter: .243/.327/.390 with 15 home runs and a 101 wRC+.
Injuries have taken a toll on LeMahieu: those who saw him in his prime know what kind of hitter he used to be. However, even if he isn’t an elite hitter anymore, he can contribute as a part-time third baseman or super-utility infielder.
What will the Yankees do? Will they give the keys to the position to Peraza? Will they hand them to the veteran option? Or will they actively look for an upgrade in the offseason?