One way or another, the Yankees are staring down the barrel of a monstrous shortstop decision this season. They took a tremendous risk passing on a few established commodities the past few years, notably players like Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story, and many more.
Electing to spend elsewhere, management has always been keen on utilizing their youth movement to fill the shortstop position, but it has taken years to develop their talent.
Fortunately, they must answer the call now, especially with Peraza enjoying a successful 18-game sample size at the end of the 2022 regular season and having a slight leg up over Isiah Kiner-Falefa regarding the impending position battle.
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The Yankees took a risk, and it’s time to see the result:
The Bombers passed on the top free-agent options on the market, utilizing IKF as a stop-gap solution after being acquired from the Minnesota Twins. That trade seems to be a bad one in hindsight, given Josh Donaldson’s demise as an offensive weapon and IKF being benched in the playoffs for poor defensive play.
However, manager Aaron Boone stands firmly behind IKF as an impact player, routinely coming to his defense, despite sending him to the pine during one of the Yankees’ most important games last season. If that doesn’t indicate they have a little faith in his capabilities, I don’t know what does.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa will have his chance to win the SS job:
Nonetheless, the 27-year-old will have a fair opportunity to win the starting job coming off of a year where he hit .261 with a .314 OBP, four homers, and 48 RBIs with a career-high 22 stolen bases. We know that Kiner-Falefa offers the team solid contact-hitting qualities but lacks power and failed to field routine ground balls.
At the very least, Peraza will present Gold Glove caliber defense and plenty of offensive upside with good power metrics. The question is, can he reduce his chase rate and improve his contact hitting, in turn balancing his strikeout rate?
Peraza hosted a 23.3% K rate at the AAA level, which isn’t bad, paired with an 8% walk rate. Over 57 at-bats in the majors, he enjoyed a 15.8% K rate and 10.5% walk rate, but his Steamer projections have him posting a 22.7% K rate and 6.5% walk rate.
Even if the Yankees have to live with inconsistent hitting, his defense should make up for it in fWAR.
Unless management is keen on blindsiding owner Hal Steinbrenner, both Peraza and Anthony Volpe will have their fair shot to win starting jobs this spring, as he suggested several months ago.
“In my opinion, they’re going to get a shot,” Steinbrenner said over the winter. “In March, I remember saying that they’re the middle infield of the Yankees in the future. That’s why we made some of the decisions in the offseason, as opposed to going out and getting a huge free agent. They both progressed really well this year.”
Volpe looked phenomenal with AA Somerset last season, starting his tenure with AAA on a high note, collecting a six-game hitting streak. Things evened out quickly, so the expectation is that Volpe will start the 2023 season with Scranton once again, proving consistency before a promotion.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peraza and Volpe starting by the All-Star break, pushing IKF into a utility role and making Gleyber Torres expendable.