Shortstop Oswald Peraza signed for $175,000 out of Venezuela in the summer of 2016, and debuted in 2017 in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 17. The crown jewel of the Yankees’ 2016 international free agent class, Pinstripe Alley’s third-ranked prospect is tantalizingly close to the big leagues. With his combination of offense, defense, and speed, he could be manning a position in the Yankees’ infield sooner rather than later.
Two and half years younger than the average GCL player, Peraza held his own in 2017 and has since climbed the ranks of the organization’s, and baseball’s, top prospects. The Yankees added Peraza to the 40-man roster after the 2020 season, and he rewarded that faith in 2021.
Last season, Peraza set personal bests hitting for power, with 26 doubles and 18 round-trippers. He paired that with a .297 batting average to produce an .834 OPS. And Peraza did all that in an age-21 season that topped out at Triple-A, where he was more than 5 years younger than the average player.
2021 Minor League Stats (High-A Hudson Valley/Double-A Somerset/Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): 115 G, 511 PA, 138 H, 18 HR, 38 SB, .297/.356/.477
2022 Expected minor league level: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Major League ETA: 2022/2023
Defensively, Peraza has consistently displayed a slick glove since signing with the Yankees. The Athletic’s Keith Law posits that “Peraza is a plus defender at short, perhaps the best defensive shortstop in the strong Yankees’ system, and would have the arm and hands to move to third base.” Baseball America is also bullish on Peraza’s defense, though perhaps not to the same level as Law.
BA observes that though Peraza is not the “twitchiest athlete,” his combination of speed, instincts, and reaction times allow him to make the plays required to stick at the position. ESPN agrees, with their write-up of Peraza noting the young shortstop as a plus defender.
SS Oswald Peraza showed off his defense in the same game. pic.twitter.com/wTh4mpyFHw— NYYPlayerDev (@NYYPlayerDev) March 26, 2019
At the plate, scouting reports indicate that Peraza’s breakout 2021 campaign was unlikely to be an aberration. One reason for the optimism? In 2019, Peraza had one of the highest ground ball rates in the minors. In 2021, that rate moved to the middle of the pack, as Peraza combined his ability to hit the ball hard with an approach that hit the ball in the air.
FanGraphs notes Peraza’s ability to track pitches. That skill, along with his newfound propensity for putting the ball in the air, suggests to FanGraphs that “that he has special feel for impacting the bottom half of the baseball, and not just for making frequent contact but for absolutely squaring it up.”
FIRST TRIPLE-A HOMERUN— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) September 24, 2021
Oswald Pereza hits his FIRST Triple-A Homerun to extend the RailRiders lead. pic.twitter.com/3OlQFTz1Su
There are still areas for Peraza to improve at the plate. BA notes that he has room to sharpen his ability to hit breaking balls, though they also observe that he improved at that as the 2021 season wore on. Law, meanwhile, states that Peraza’s plate discipline will need to improve for success at the big-league level. He observes that Peraza has a tendency to swing at too many pitches he either cannot make contact with or, at best, cannot make solid contact with.
Law is bearish on Peraza’s likelihood of developing into a player who boasts an above-average OBP. FanGraphs backs that assessment, noting Peraza’s propensity for expanding the strike zone, and the downward pressure that could put on Peraza’s offensive ceiling.
All that said, there is considerable optimism as to what that ceiling looks like. Law projects Peraza as a player who will hit 20-plus homeruns annually with value added from his defense and baserunning. ESPN forecasts that Peraza will evolve into an offensive player good for a .270 batting average with 15-18 homeruns annually. FanGraphs assigned Peraza a 50 grade in Future Value, and Baseball America assigned Peraza a 55 Grade.
Oswald Peraza highlights, anyone?— Eli Fishman (@elijfishman) November 26, 2021
The 21 year old #Yankees shortstop prospect hit .297 this past season with a .834 OPS, 18 HR, and 38 stolen bases.
25/25 potential, top tier defender, the real deal. Excited to see what he can do in the Bronx in 2022. pic.twitter.com/LChxeZVLca
One stumbling block for Peraza in 2022? The owner-instigated lockout, which will prevent minor league players on 40-man rosters from playing in the minor leagues until the work stoppage comes to an end. Considering Peraza only had a quick cup of coffee at Triple-A (8 games and 31 plate appearances), he is at risk of missing out on valuable reps.
Those missed chances could delay Peraza’s arrival in the Bronx. Baseball America and FanGraphs both think Peraza should debut sometime in 2022. But if the lockout persists and Peraza misses too much development time, the result could be a delayed debut.
Prospect Rankings (Yankees/MLB):
Baseball America (No. 2/No. 55)
ESPN (No. 2/No. 25)
The Athletic (No. 3/No. 95)
Baseball Prospectus (No. 2/No. 61)
FanGraphs (No. 2/No. 39)
A consensus top-three Yankees prospect and top-100 prospect in all of baseball, Peraza has the potential to be the total package offensively, defensively, and on the bases. If he reaches the 60 grade projection that Baseball America gives his hit tool, the sky could be the limit. And even if he does not, his defensive value, baserunning skill, and burgeoning power should still make him a valuable big leaguer.