The Yankees have not had a strong season from their shortstop since Gleyber Torres in 2019, but even then, he was a -3 DRS and -3 OAA defender at the position, making him a liability on that side of the ball. We’d have to go back to the days of Derek Jeter to find the last Yankee shortstop to post an fWAR above 3.4 while playing the majority of their innings at the position. It’s just not easy finding good shortstop play in the Bronx, despite multiple chances to acquire elite shortstops.
For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees are going to be able to trot out an extremely talented shortstop who can also field their position extremely well. While it’s impossible to say a rookie is going to be able to excel in their first full season, it’s safe to say Oswald Peraza is the most complete shortstop they’ve had in recent memory. With his abundance of strong tools, Oswald Peraza looks to become one of the Yankees’ key contributors in 2023, and he can provide the stability this organization has longed for at the position.
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Oswald Peraza is one of the most well-regarded defensive prospects in baseball, as MLB Pipeline has him as a 60-grade fielder with a 60-grade arm, both classifying him as a well-above-average defensive player. He’s got a knack for making smooth defensive plays, and in the ALCS, he displayed some wizardry with his glove.
That’s Oswald Peraza making a sliding stop and then throwing out a speedy Jose Altuve (70th Percentile Sprint Speed), who’s most likely going max-effort down the line to try to beat out Peraza’s throw. Altuve hit that ball 102.1 MPH, and it had a modest .350 xBA, which provides added context that only makes it more impressive. Peraza wasn’t done, however, as an even faster runner in Chas McCormick found that a slow chopper to shortstop that he could usually beat out wasn’t going to faze the 22-year-old rookie
While this ball had an xBA below .200, it was still hit just 52.9 MPH, and it also deflected off the mound. Peraza had to make a decision on whether to charge aggressively or stay back on it, and he made the right choice and, with a quick transfer, threw out McCormick (84th Percentile Sprint Speed) to complete a stellar play. What Oswald Peraza possesses is a strong arm that allows him to complete plays most throws, but it also allows him to play back at shortstop, giving him much more range. Among all shortstops who played SS during at least 10 PAs, Oswald Peraza was 12th out of 144 SS in starting position (149 feet), and this allows him to get to baseballs that other shortstops won’t be able to. That increased range should allow Peraza to be a gold-glove caliber defender, something this team has sorely needed at the shortstop position
The glove was something we all knew Oswald Peraza exceled with, but the big question mark is just how much offense can he generate for this Yankee ballclub in 2023.
Does Oswald Peraza Have an MLB-Ready Offensive Skillset for the Yankees?
Oswald Peraza posted a 106 wRC+ at Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, which isn’t remarkably impressive for a player attempting to make an impact at the Major League level. That being said, there were plenty of signs that Oswald Peraza had actually clicked, and the shape of his wRC+ is quite promising. Peraza got better throughout the 2022 campaign, going on a tear within his final 64 games:
- 131 wRC+
- 15 HRs
- 8.6% BB%
- 22.9% K%
Oswald Peraza displayed strong power over the final stretches of his MiLB career, and he hit a ball roughly 109.7 MPH for his Max Exit Velocity in 2022, though in 2021, he reached 112.4 MPH for his Max Exit Velocity. There’s a chance there was a misread, perhaps in 2021, but if not, that 112.4 MPH Max Exit Velo would rank him in the 85th Percentile in 2022. Notable players with a Max Exit Velocity around 112.4 MPH? Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Machado, Bo Bichette, and Freddie Freeman. That’s some great company to be in, and Peraza’s power could allow him to generate 20+ HR power at the MLB level.
Oswald Peraza generates a ton of pull-side power, pulling 50.5% of balls in play at Triple-A in 2022, and pull-side power is greatly beneficial in adding HR pop to a profile that may not be certain to generate that type of HR output. The proof is in the data, as HR/FB% and wRC+ would suggest pulling the ball typically leads to better results, though if you go in-depth with groundballs and flyballs, you’ll find pulling flyballs and going opposite field with groundballs is the best approach. You can’t blanket all batted ball events as good or bad based on whether the ball was pulled or not, but pulled ball profiles have performed as a whol better:
- Pulled Balls
- 30.2% HR.FB%
- 167 wRC+
- .955 OPS
- Center Hit Balls
- 7.4% HR.FB%
- 115 wRC+
- .773 OPS
- Opposite Field
- 3.3% HR/FB%
- 114 wRC+
- .771 OPS
As you can see, pulled balls just perform much better than other counterparts. Peraza also has great speed (90th Percentile), and this should allow him to generate quite a few infield hits as well. Speed plays a role in the baserunning game as well, and with bigger bases, Oswald Peraza could run wild at the MLB level. In Triple-A, they experimented with larger bases, and Peraza stole 33 bases while only getting caught five times. At the MLB level, we could see Peraza swipe well over 20 bags and do so rather efficiently. The BsR value is going to play a huge factor in how good Peraza is as a total offensive player, and that’s a massive key to a player’s offensive value most people overlook.
Another aspect of all of this is what Peraza was able to accomplish at the Major League level already, displaying improved plate discipline and reducing his whiff rates. While I don’t think that’ll sustain, it is worth noting that Peraza didn’t immediately suffer from high whiff rates or an overly-aggressive approach, which is something rookies typically display early on. If Peraza’s chase rate is lower than league average, it could give him a slightly better OBP than what he’s projected to be. His whiff rates being lower could also be a good sign for Peraza’s ability to hit for average, as while he hit under .260 in Triple-A, he was always a .280-.290 guy at the MiLB level. The upside for Peraza’s bat is figuring out how to combine a ~.280 AVG with slightly better than league-average walk rates and that great raw power we previously discussed.
With Peraza having a solid foundation for a good offensive profile to boot with elite defense, what are reasonable projections for Oswald Peraza in 2023?
How Does Oswald Peraza Project For 2023?
Oswald Peraza actually projects rather well for 2023 per Steamer, something that should excite many Yankee fans. Let’s look at Steamer600, which projects a player’s numbers over 600 Plate Appearances, to see what their volume numbers would look like for their median outcome in 2023.
- 104 wRC+
- 20 HRs
- 23 SBs
- 3.1 fWAR
Those numbers would make Peraza the first 3 fWAR shortstop on the Yankees since 2019, Gleyber Torres, which would be immensely valuable considering Peraza will most likely spend most of the year in the bottom third of the lineup. The Yankees struggled with maintaining lineup depth after suffering injuries to the lineup that decimated them in the postseason. If Peraza can help steady the bottom of that lineup with elite speed, good power, and solid wRC+ production, we could see a Yankee lineup that is extremely dangerous in the 2023 season. It depends on their ability to maintain the trio of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo, and Giancarlo Stanton, but if those three are there, Peraza is part of those depth bats in the lineup who can help steady and lengthen the lineup.
The Yankees are looking towards a youth movement in 2023 that should help the established veteran talent on the team find success in winning not just the AL East for a second time in a row but potentially getting to their first WS since 2009.