To the relief of almost everyone, the Yankees finally did it. They called up their No. 3 prospect, shortstop Oswald Peraza, as the 26-man roster expanded to 28 with the start of September. This all comes on the heels of a forgettable rubber match against the Los Angeles Angels that saw current shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa botch a routine groundball that would’ve had the bottom of the sixth inning at two outs with a runner on second instead of one out and two runners on. Instead, Gerrit Cole threw his self-proclaimed “worst fastball of the night” to 2021 MVP Shohei Ohtani, and he crushed it to give the Halos a 3-2 lead that held up.
The outrage surrounding Kiner-Falefa and the Yankees losing a very winnable game seemed amplified despite it being a common trend over the last month. After a terrible month of August (10-18, their worst month in 31 years), the anger appeared to boil over even more. With players in the pipeline and the major leaguers on the field not getting the job done, why not call up somebody earlier, especially with the division lead they previously held? I, like everyone else, do not know.
Nonetheless, Peraza is here, and that’s what matters. In Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, he struggled initially but found his stride halfway through the season. Before being pulled from the game and hugging his teammates, he hit his 19th bomb of the year.
Prior to play on Thursday, Peraza slashed .258/.329/.440 with a wRC+ of 104 with an eight-percent walk rate and a 23.2-percent strikeout rate. Steamer projects the 22-year-old to slash .242/.296/.392 with a wRC+ of 97. Yes, those numbers aren’t flattering, but growing pains are real, and they’re only projections. That wRC+ figure sitting 17 higher than the Yankees’ current shortstop should do wonders for the lower end of the lineup. In the fielding aspect, Peraza has a 60-grade ranking per FanGraphs, along with the quote, “An outstanding international find for $175,000, Peraza is a plus-run, plus-glove shortstop, and scouts see some untapped power potential.”
Any defensive replacement is good, but one that many scouts consider excellent is perfect. The fact that other outlets like Baseball America and MLB Pipeline agree that his glove looks terrific only makes it better.
Calling up Peraza is all well and good, but actions speak louder than words, especially in sports. Manager Aaron Boone provided a pretty divisive quote about Kiner-Falefa and his error in a postgame presser.
Aaron Boone on Isiah Kiner-Falefa's error tonight: "He's been one of the best defenders in the league at shortstop. Shortstop, infielders make an error every now and then. It's a play he should make but he's been one of the best defenders in the league."— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) September 1, 2022
Per usual, we must issue a disclaimer that Boone is almost always going to be adamantly protective of his players because that’s just been his managerial style for five seasons now. He doubled down on his defense of IKF yesterday afternoon as well though, so this is all either a smokescreen or legitimate confidence.
So the question becomes whether or not Boone and the Yankees are willing to play Kiner-Falefa less and give Peraza more time in the lineup. All but 12 games of Peraza’s six-year professional career have been at shortstop, so unless the Yankees feel comfortable with that remaining sample at second, he’s going to have to take Kiner-Falefa’s spot at the six-hole if he’s starting. Given how the many shifts these days tend to move infielders around, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Peraza occasionally appear at the keystone or maybe even third base, but even if IKF wasn’t in the picture, it would make the most sense for the rookie to begin where he’s most comfortable.
One notable point in Peraza’s favor is that GM Brian Cashman was unwilling to part with him at the trade deadline, which indicates a belief that he can make an impact at the major league level — particularly at shortstop, where they just so happen to have another near-MLB ready prospect who might one day pair with him. I don’t believe that they would call Peraza up to warm the bench, either; that was always the stated reluctance for not promoting him earlier since they wanted him to develop and play every day. However, considering the long leash that the Yankees have granted Kiner-Falefa in 2022, I also can’t say that anything would surprise me at this point.
A new month has started, and it’s time for the Yankees to put up or shut up. Their steep division lead has been chipped down, and with a huge three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays coming up, they could very well face a tight race as the season dwindles. Calling up Peraza should have been done a while ago, but it wasn’t, and there’s nothing anyone can do to fix it now. But now that he’s in the Bronx for the foreseeable future, he needs to play.
It sounds so simple, right? The best players need to play, and IKF is hurting the team right now. So, as much as the internal metrics reportedly love him, it’s time for the effects of that infatuation to end, especially if Peraza comes in with a bang like Oswaldo Cabrera did after his call-up. It’s now or never for the Bombers, and part of this hopefully-restorative September involves giving the 22-year-old a legitimate shot.