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Yankees 2021 Season Preview: Oswald Peraza

The Yankees’ top infield prospect is looking for a breakout season worthy of his impressive toolset.

New York Yankees v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

No Yankees prospect rose up the prospect rankings during the 2019 season quite like Oswald Peraza. A solid but unspectacular prospect when he signed with the Yankees during the 2016 international free agency period, he performed well right from the start at the lower levels of the minors.

Despite those strong initial performances in rookie ball, Peraza was still not considered a major prospect. With his promotion to the now-defunct Short-Season A Staten Island and then Low-A Charleston in 2019, scouts began to notice improved tools and underlying metrics that warranted a deeper look.

Peraza went from an unranked prospect to top six within the Yankees’ organization by the end of 2019. Scouts were impressed by his ability to put the bat on the ball and generate strong exit velocities while receiving aggressive promotions up the organizational ladder. Like many prospects, Peraza’s system progress was halted due to the lost 2020 minor league season, but the Yankees had still seen enough to add him to the 40-man roster last November.

2019 Stats (Short-Season A and Low-A): 293 PA, .263/.332/.340, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 12.6 K%, 7.1 BB%, 23 SB, 7 CS

There is little chance that we will see Peraza in the major leagues this season unless he completely exceeds expectations or there is a short-term emergency. He has only 46 games of experience at the Low-A level and was not a member of the team’s alternate site training camp this past season. Judging what the Yankees can expect from Peraza in 2021 will not be tied to major league performance.

2020 was not a completely lost season for Peraza, as he returned to his native Venezuela in November and early December to play for Cardenales de Lara in six games. In those six games he slashed .250/.400/.313, playing alongside and against current and former major leaguers, and numerous prospects at the upper levels of the minor leagues.

The Yankees will be looking for Peraza to continue his forward progress this summer. Despite standing just 6-feet tall and weighing around 185 pounds, the Yankees have recorded a peak exit velocity of 110 mph off his bat, which is on par with an average major leaguer. Strong exit velocities combined with good bat-to-ball skills, and Peraza has the tools to become a solid bat at a key defensive position.

The team has aggressively promoted Peraza over the last several seasons, which may explain why his raw offensive statistics from 2019 do not jump off the page. He adjusted to the more advanced levels quickly and hit .309/.399/.382 over his last 31 games for Low-A Charleston.

Peraza is in spring training with the Yankees and getting a chance to see live pitching ahead of his minor league peers. He is likely going to be assigned to High-A Hudson Valley once the minor league season begins in May. The Yankees will be looking to see if his offensive production can match the potential that the organizations scouts and coaches have recently observed.

Defensively, Peraza is already considered among the best options in the Yankees system. He has good range and a throwing arm that was rated as the best infield arm in the Yankees system by Baseball America heading into this season. He is expected to remain at shortstop and has the potential to be an above-average defensive player for years to come. With experimental rules on limiting the shift coming to some of the minor leagues this season, it is likely that teams will be looking closely at their middle infielders and how they will fit in a system that might not include shifting in the future.

Several other rules are being tried out this season with the goal of encouraging base stealing in the minor leagues. That is another area that Peraza has already found success in early in his career. He was successful on 77 percent of his stolen base attempts in 2019. He is likely to find more success at this skill as baseball looks to limit pickoff attempts and takes the left-handed “balk move” away from pitchers.

Oswald Peraza has emerged as one of the Yankees top prospects. He has shown a knack for making contact and adapting to higher levels of competition, as the Yankees moved him up the minor league ladder. While an unlikely option for the major league team in 2021, he has the chance this coming year to cement himself as a player who the Yankees can begin to plan on moving forward.