Concerns about the Yankees starting incumbent Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop may have been overstated by many, as reports are surfacing that Oswald Peraza is the most likely option at the position. Buster Olney of ESPN had spent a weekend with the Yankees in which he had heard rumblings about the ongoing shortstop battle. While Anthony Volpe is the best prospect in the system and IKF has the most MLB experience, Olney reported on his podcast “Baseball Tonight” that unless something unforeseen were to occur, Oswald Peraza is the starter at shortstop.
While it’s a decision that could change with trades or injuries, it seems as if the Yankees are confident in the 22-year-old to play excellent defense while contributing with the bat.
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Yankees See Upside in Peraza’s Bat
Hitting coach Dillion Lawson was quoted over the offseason saying that the exit velocity numbers for Oswald Peraza were enticing. Peraza isn’t known for his power by many, but in 2022 he hit 19 HRs in just 99 games at Triple-A. He’s slugging .464 with a .184 ISO across three different levels since 2021, and the power is something that could allow Peraza to put up solid offensive numbers with his elite defense and baserunning. Another overlooked aspect of Peraza’s game is his strong plate discipline, as he posted just a 20.3% Chase Rate in 2022 at the Triple-A and MLB level combined.
Making strong swing decisions and having solid power can lead to great results in the offensive department, and while projections view Peraza as a ~95 wRC+ bat for 2022, there’s a chance he could reach even greater heights. Having consistent contact and power will be what Peraza is aiming to work on at the Major League level, as if he can be a 110-115 wRC+ hitter in the bottom third of that lineup with his glove and speed, they’ll score plenty of runs.
Not only is he someone who could contribute with the bat, but he’s also a ridiculous baserunner. The bases will be bigger at the MLB level this season, and the Yankees could run wild with Oswald Peraza’s 90th Percentile Sprint Speed. If his speed doesn’t impress you enough, perhaps the 35 stolen bases at the Triple-A and Major League levels in just 40 attempts will. He’s a great baserunner, and the Yankees have always been missing a speed element to their squad.
He’s an extremely well-rounded player, and with his progress in Triple-A and the rapport with the likely starters in the infield, he’s the right man for a World Series contending squad at the position. Peraza is looking to be the long-term shortstop the Yankees have yearned for since the days of Derek Jeter, but what about the other exciting shortstop prospect that’s lit up Spring Training?
What About Anthony Volpe?
For as incredible as Anthony Volpe has been throughout Spring Training, it’s evident that the Yankees have their own doubts about whether to “rush” him or not. It’s possible he’s MLB-ready and that he could skip the extra development at Triple-A, but it’s more likely that Volpe still has some work to do before getting a shot to start for the Yankees. This, however, isn’t even the largest concern when it comes to the decision regarding Anthony Volpe, as the Yankees can’t really justify starting him over what they have internally.
Gleyber Torres it 24 HRs with a 115 wRC+ and great defense at 2B, while DJ LeMahieu had a 116 wRC+ and elite defense at 3B, and it’s hard to imagine that Volpe can be a 115-120 wRC+ right out of the gate in 2023. The Yankees are a World Series contender, and by providing Volpe time to develop just a bit more, they can also assess the veterans in Torres, LeMahieu, and Donaldson. If Donaldson is struggling out the gate, he’s an easy DFA candidate who can open up the roster spot needed for Volpe.
That being said, if Donaldson has a 110-115 wRC+ and elite defense at 3B alongside strong seasons from DJ and Gleyber, it’s a lot harder to make time for Volpe. This is largely a playing time issue, as the Yankees aren’t going to call up Volpe for Opening Day just to make him a backup infielder. When they did that with Oswald Peraza, it proved to be a waste of time for both parties involved, as they continued to play IKF over his superior counterpart in Peraza.
It isn’t as simple as just penciling in Volpe at SS on Opening Day, as the Yankees have several more established MLB talents with upside that they need to figure out as well. Oswald Peraza presents the perfect balance between being MLB-ready while also being a young rookie with great potential, and for now, he’s the responsible decision to make at the position. The Yankees should continue to give Volpe an extended look with the Major League team at Spring Training, but that doesn’t mean that they should start him to begin the season.
Even if it’s just a month at Triple-A, it’s giving the Yankees ~30 games of sample to evaluate their team’s performance and Anthony Volpe and re-evaluate, even if it comes at the cost of lowering your team’s ceiling a smudge. The Yankees are already a World Series contender, with or without Anthony Volpe, so trading Gleyber Torres or DFA’ing Donaldson prior to the season’s start to place a rookie who has a very wide range of outcomes in the starting lineup feels like an unnecessary risk, even if the fan in me wants to see Volpe take the same path Derek Jeter did in 1996.
The Yankees have plenty of options for their infield, and Anthony Volpe has certainly shown enough to be promoted in 2023, but Oswald Peraza is the guy they most likely would (and should) start against the Giants on March 30th at Yankee Stadium.