Despite a ridiculous number of superstar shortstops on the free agent market year in and year out, the New York Yankees remained committed to their long-term plan of utilizing prospects at the position.
After a few years of stopgap solutions, including Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and now Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the team is preparing to look toward their youth as an answer to their problems.
This upcoming season, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe project to compete for the starting shortstop job. Neither have a ton of experience, if any at all, so the playing field is similar, despite Peraza having an advantage given his experience in 2022.
At 22 years old, Peraza hit .306 with a 40.4% on-base rate across 18 games. He recorded a 15.8% strikeout rate and 10.5% walk rate, landing a 147 wRC+. Unfortunately, those numbers are almost guaranteed to decrease, especially after hitting .259 with a 33% on-base rate with Triple-A Scranton last season.
Peraza made a solid contribution in the ALCS against the Houston Astros after the Yankees benched IKF. Offensively he didn’t amount to much, but Peraza showcased his elite glove work and proved he can be a tremendous defensive infielder for the Yankees moving forward. If his offense continues to improve as the season goes along next year, the Yankees will be incredibly happy with his subsidies, but Volpe is expected to be in the mix as well.
Vice President of Player Development Kevin Reese said on the YES Network. that Volpe is just about ready to make the leap:
“Depending on who you ask, he’s ready yesterday, he’s ready tomorrow,” Reese said. “He’s a great kid who is always looking to help the team any way he can and he’s ready. I think it’s a combination of general skills and ability on the field, but also a calmness that you don’t see from young players very often. Like Peraza, he’s stolen a ton of bases, he’s hit for power, he fits in with whatever group it is — players from different backgrounds, even pitchers, who position players don’t like hanging out with too much. He hits in really well and I think he’ll fit in on the big-league club when the time comes.”
Considering general manager Brian Cashman got the green light to extend Aaron Judge on a nine-year, $362 million deal, and that is not even mentioning Carlos Rodon‘s six-year, $162 million contract, it is clear that the Yankees are going all in to win a World Series. Taking such a big risk at shortstop with two young players may end up being their downfall, but it is something that the Bombers have been depending on for quite some time.
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The Yankees still view Anthony Volpe as their future SS:
Despite Peraza expecting to get the first crack at shortstop, Volpe is ultimately the long-term solution. Peraza could end up shifting positions, whether that be to second base or even to the hot corner, where Josh Donaldson is currently set to play on a $21 million salary. Ideally, the Yanks would like to move on from Donaldson and recoup his financial allocations, which would open up the position for DJ LeMahieu or Peraza.
Alternatively, they could look to trade Gleyber Torres at some point in time, whether it be over the next few months or before the trade deadline next summer. The Yankees good shift Volpe to shortstop and Peraza to second base, adding a bit of bullpen support in exchange for Torres, if not more starting pitching if any injuries arise.
Simply put, Cashman is banking heavily on the shortstop position being a strength and not a liability with two young players fighting for the gig. Peraza and Volpe have more than enough talent to put together adequate seasons, but it ultimately boils down to their offensive consistency.
Both prospects seem to get better with time, especially with more experience and reps at any given level. Volpe started the 2022 season on a down note, hitting just .197 with a 33% on base right in April with Double-A Somerset. By the time July rolled around, he was hitting .296 with a 41.6% on-base rate, including five homers.
An ideal scenario might be to feature Volpe with Triple-A for a few weeks, if not months, to help him assimilate. Once he’s hitting consistently at that level, elevating him to the Major League roster should be a no-brainer. It’s time to stop playing the service time game and play the young guys.