As long as the Yankees stick to their plan of Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe as the solutions in the middle infield for the Yankees in 2023, the pressure is on for them to perform as soon as they hit the starting lineup. Since last winter when the Yankees opted out of signing Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, they signaled a confidence in the two young shortstop prospects to take the helm for the team in the short and long term future. On the outside looking in, that confidence has only increased since the season ended.
The rumors of Gleyber Torres’ potential departure from the Bronx have some serious smoke. At the trade deadline in 2022, the whispers of a potential deal surrounding him and Marlins starter Pablo López indicated that the Yankees didn’t see him as an integral piece to this roster. Well, maybe that’s not completely fair. If they thought a pitcher like López could have had a bigger impact on the team, then trading Torres would have been completely valid. However, the rumors around him this offseason have only reinforced the notion that they don’t see him as the long term answer at second base. It’s not clear how much we can attribute that confidence to Peraza and Volpe, but there is no question that at least one of them is the reason why Torres could be on the way out.
Torres has seen pretty consistent health since his arrival to the big leagues outside of a slightly extended stint on the injured list in 2021. I think his performance in the last two seasons is a realistic representation of what we can expect from him as a player going forward. In that stretch, he has accrued 3.9 fWAR, or basically two wins per season. At that mark, he’s basically an average player. Personally, I think his skills are higher than that of the average player, but he hasn’t been productive enough to justify that opinion enough. Because of this, it’s very possible the Yankees think they can get at least that production out of Volpe and/or Peraza.
These projections might not be the best thing to go off right now, but Steamer currently projects Peraza to be good for a 105 wRC+ in over 250 plate appearances in 2023. On top of that, Peraza is quite clearly the superior defender to Torres. His skill and ability at the position is impressive and that’s something lacking in Torres’ profile. That plus defense and potentially average hitting could be more than enough to make up for Torres’ production in the last two seasons. My expectation is that with a full-time role, Peraza would be a near-league average player in 2023, or in other words, similar to Torres.
Volpe is a different story. His upside with his bat will be his carrying tool in the major leagues. And I don’t mean to undersell his glove. In the video I’ve seen, he has great fundamentals and instincts at shortstop, but skill-wise, Peraza is the more talented glove. Volpe though ... well, he hit, hit, and hit. It’s actually ironic because his ability to get to his power reminds me of peak Torres, but the hope is that Volpe will be able to sustain it in a manner that we once expected of Torres. That said, it seems that the Yankees believe he can be an impact player off the bat, and almost assuredly more productive than what Torres has been in the past two years.
On top of this, I haven’t mentioned the shortstop position. Even if the Yankees do keep Torres for the final season of control and continue to get average production from him, it’s likely that either Peraza or Volpe will provide more production than what Isiah Kiner-Falefa did this past season. IKF’s 1.3 fWAR isn’t as high as either Volpe or Peraza’s Steamer projection for half of a season in 2023. That’s not necessarily a knock on IKF either. We know he will be slightly below average to average in a full season. The expectation is that both prospects will be better than that.
Barring any unexpected outcome of the Yankees signing Correa or any other elite shortstop free agent, we will get quite a lot of Peraza and Volpe in 2023. There’s no denying the pressure is on for the two, but the organization’s confidence in the two is high. Yes, it would be nice to have both these players and Correa or another star, but if they do in fact have to rely on the prospects, we should be excited to see them play with a full opportunity to take the Bronx by storm.