On the surface, the Yankees’ April 27th trade with the Giants last season was the definition of “meh” all around. Arguably, the reaction skewed more negative, because the Yankees were giving up Mike Tauchman. While Tauchman hadn’t been good in the shortened 2020 season or early in ‘21, he still had some residual goodwill from his excellent run with the “Next Man Up” 2019 Yankees.
In return for Tauchman, the Yankees got a player to be named later, and reliever Wandy Peralta. In his five MLB seasons with the Reds and Giants, Peralta had been up and down, and had a slightly below average 94 ERA+ going into the 2021 season. A couple innings with the Giants to start last season lowered that even more, and it seemed like the Yankees were just looking to add someone to put in the bullpen while dealing with injuries.
By the end of the season, Peralta had become a very solid contributor to the bullpen, and someone the Yankees will be hoping for good things from again in 2022.
2021 Stats (Total): 56 games, 51 IP, 3.35 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 3.99 xFIP, 7.59 K/9, 3.71 BB/9, 1.06 HR/9, 0.2 fWAR
2021 Stats (with Yankees): 46 games, 42.2 IP, 2.95 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 3.98 xFIP, 7.38 K/9, 3.80 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9, 0.2 fWAR
2022 ZiPS Projections: 58 games, 53 IP, 3.96 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 8.77 K/9, 3.44 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9, 0.4 fWAR
In 42.2 innings with the Yankees last season, Peralta allowed 14 earned runs. Ten of them came in the first 17.1 of those innings. That period covers two IL stints, one for a back injury and another for a COVID-IL trip. When Peralta eventually returned in early August, he became a key piece to a reeling bullpen, putting up a 1.42 ERA in his final 25.1 innings of the season. His overall season ERA went from just under five to it’s final season end point of 3.35.
That run over the the final months of the season coincided with a pretty sizeable increase in changeup usage, and a decrease of slider usage.
It was a change that made plenty of sense, considering that Peralta allowed a wOBA of .493 on the slider compared to just .248 with the changeup.
While the small sample size nature of things means it’s not a perfect fit month wise, Peralta managed to ride these changes to a 29.8-percent hard-hit rate, which was not terribly far off the MLB league leaders in that regard. Despite not possessing flashy strikeout stuff, Peralta didn’t allow a ton of hard contact because he got hitters to chase a lot of pitches.
Now the question is: Can Peralta carry that over to 2022? The projections for him aren’t glowing, but that’s somewhat to be expected. Most of his career has been fine at best, while his Yankee stint in 2021 — when he was genuinely good — wasn’t long enough to make a big dent in lowering his projections.
Based on the changes that Peralta made and working with the Yankees’ pitching coaches, who seem to be pretty good, should hopefully lead to good things this season. However, if he does regress, he would be far from the first reliever to do that. There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic that he can again be a valuable bullpen piece, but it’s not a certain thing either.
On the other hand, he hopefully won’t have to be one of the main names out of the bullpen either. With the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, Chad Green, Clay Holmes, and even new bullpen addition Miguel Castro, on paper, Peralta doesn’t have to be anything more than middle relief alongside Lucas Luetge. Even if he regresses, if he’s the sixth or seventh guy on the proverbial reliever depth chart, the Yankees would hopefully be able to deal with that.
Wandy Peralta was a very pleasant surprise for the Yankees in 2021. Now, he’s someone they’ll have genuine hopes for in 2022.