The Yankees entered the season with three really interesting future pieces for the shortstop position: Oswaldo Cabrera, Anthony Volpe, and Oswald Peraza. All of them performed admirably at every level they played at, and the latter positioned himself to compete for a starting gig in spring training 2023.
Peraza opened the season as the starting shortstop of the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and spent most of the year there. He did, however, force the Yankees’ hand and was called up on September 1st.
2022 Statistics: 18 games, 57 PA, .306/.404/.429, 146 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Entering first year of pre-arbitration status (six seasons of team control remaining)
The only reason Peraza gets an “incomplete” grade is because the Yankees took forever to give him a chance, and even after they brought him to the majors, they barely played him because of their fascination with Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Their decision to stick with IKF all season long (and most of the postseason, too) likely cost the team some important developmental time for Peraza, who received just 57 big league plate appearances.
He did inflict some damage despite the precious few opportunities in MLB: with a .306/.404/.429 line, a home run, two steals and a 146 wRC+, Peraza showed flashes of his potential as a hitter, which is considerable and perfectly complements his defensive prowess and his plus speed.
The reason why his 2022 is considered successful is not precisely his MLB performance, however — it’s what he did in Triple-A. His overall line in Scranton was solid, slashing .259/.329/.448 with 19 home runs and 33 stolen bases. His 106 wRC+ indicates slightly above-average performance. However, we have to go to the game log to really understand the kind of growth he had in-season. After a sluggish start that extended for a few weeks, everything started to click in June. Developing a prospect requires a lot of things, but patience is perhaps the most important one.
From June 11th until September 1st, Peraza hit .316/.382/.560 in 234 plate appearances — that’s not an insignificant sample size! Over that span, he hit nine doubles, 14 home runs and had 22 stolen bases while being caught just four times. His .942 OPS and 148 wRC+ since that date are excellent evidence of his considerable offensive upside.
Between the minors and the majors, Peraza hit 20 round-trippers and accumulated 35 stolen bases. Nobody can prove the Yankees would have been better off handing the shortstop position to him in August or September, but it’s hard not to see it — Kiner-Falefa had an 85 wRC+ in the regular season and made some costly defensive blunders in high-leverage spots, while Peraza has significantly more offensive upside and is already a better fielder and runner.
Peraza is not just a slap hitter with a high groundball percentage — in the last two years, he has mastered the art of hitting the ball in the air consistently. For instance, he had a 38.6 percent groundball rate and a 41.9 fly ball percentage in Scranton this season.
If the Yankees want to develop their shortstop of the future, whether it is Peraza or Volpe, they need to give them opportunities to fail, succeed and, above all things, learn. The Houston Astros did it with Jeremy Pena in 2022, and the Chicago Cubs did it with Nico Hoerner, too. There are more examples.
We don’t know what the Yankees will do with the shortstop position in 2023, but all we can say is that Peraza had a terrific 2022 and should be the first internal option to open next season as the starting shortstop.