The New York Yankees‘ entire off-season plan is predicated on Aaron Judge’s future contract. If Judge lands with the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees will pivot their attention toward the shortstop market, reportedly. If they go after a free agent like Xander Bogaerts or Trea Turner, it will completely change their strategy around Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, two players who are currently projected to compete for starting spots in 2023.
Peraza put together an encouraging 2022, despite playing in just 18 games. Over 57 plate appearances, Peraza hit .306 with a 40.4% on-base rate, one homer, and two RBIs. He enjoyed a 15.8% strikeout rate and a 10.5% walk rate, showcasing his quality at the next level. Those numbers are undoubtedly elevated over such a small sample size, with his average likely dipping to around .250 with a 33% on-base rate.
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The Yankees can trust Oswald Peraza defensively:
Peraza brings elite defensive metrics to the MLB despite the expected reduction in offensive quality. The Yankees can be confident that he will provide efficiency in the infield, but they don’t want to rule out Volpe stealing the starting shortstop job either.
Volpe spent the majority of the 2022 season with Double-A Somerset, hitting .251 with a 35% on-base rate, including 18 homers, 60 RBIs, and 44 stolen bases. He played in 22 games with Triple-A at the end of the season, hitting .236 with a 31.3% on-base rate. He may need a few extra weeks to acclimate to the next level of talent before making the transition to the majors, but the Yankees have elevated plenty of players in the past prematurely, hoping they can assimilate.
The question is, should manager Aaron Boone utilize Volpe at shortstop or second base if he proves his worth during spring training?
Peraza seems to have the edge given his experience, but Volpe projects as the future at the position, so taking him away from that spot and starting him at second base may stunt his growth. Nonetheless, simply getting him offensive reps is enough to justify the decision, especially if the Yankees end up trading Gleyber Torres, which seems to be less probable now that DJ LeMahieu was still dealing with the toe injury that ended his 2022 season prematurely.
To get the most out of Volpe, giving him opportunities during spring training and sending him back down to Scranton will give him the necessary time to continue growing. They are in no rush to elevate him just yet, but the team could look at trade Torres at the deadline next year and elevate Volpe to manipulate his service time, similar to what they did with Peraza.
One way or another, Volpe will get his shot at the starting shortstop job, but rushing him into the spot with minimal experience in Triple-A might be malpractice. If Cashman ends up retaining Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who just signed a one-year, $6 million deal, letting Volpe naturally develop is the right way to go about his progession.