A few weeks after a stagnant trade deadline for the Yankees, it became clear that the team’s playoff hopes were dead. In an effort to end the regular season on a high note (and keep paying fans engaged), the Yankees called up a wave of their top prospects to inject some youth and excitement into a boring lineup. Everson Pereira was one of the first of those names called, making his debut on August 22nd. Unfortunately for the 22-year-old rookie, it was all downhill from there.
2023 Statistics: 27 games, 103 PA, .151/.233/.194, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 23 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration (arbitration eligible in 2027)
Originally signed out of Venezuela for $1.5 million in 2017, Pereira profiled as a plus hitter with excellent speed and throwing strength. He broke out in 2021, slugging 20 home runs in just 49 games between complex, Low-A and High-A ball. An altered approach added more pop to his bat, earning a call-up to Double-A in 2022 and Triple-A in 2023, where he hit .312/.386/.551 with eight home runs, 33 RBI and a 132 wRC+ in 35 games. His consistent performances with each jump in level and the enticing power waiting to be unlocked earned him a surprise promotion to the big leagues ahead of higher profile names in the minor league system like fellow outfielder Jasson Domínguez.
Pereira picked up his first RBI in his second career game, a sharply-struck fielder’s choice plating the soon-to-depart Harrison Bader against the Nationals. The next day he collected his first big-league hit, a double into the left-field corner off Jordan Weems.
On the whole, however, Pereira’s late-season cup of coffee was a rather unappetizing watch. He finished the season with the lowest wRC+ on the team and the fourth-lowest in MLB among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. He managed just 14 hits from 93 at-bats and struck out almost two out of every five trips to the plate.
In MLB Pipeline’s writeup of Pereira’s prospect skillset, they make some intriguing observations that appear to align with the eye test of his first taste of the majors. They note that in earlier levels, he was a more contact-oriented hitter with average power, but has since added significant muscle mass and changed his approach to hunt home runs. The combination of a more aggressive approach, added loft in his swing plane and improved strength led to him posting some of the highest average and max exit velocities on the farm, but also resulted in a massive uptick in strikeouts and swing and miss. Perhaps most concerning, the adjustments interrupted his timing, leading to difficulty lifting pitches.
Take a look at this pair of groundouts from the rookie:
Both are center-cut first-pitch fastballs — the kind of pitch that should make the hitter’s eyes light up. Pereira is so eager to catch the ball out in front to pull it in the air that he actually makes contact on his upswing, thus only catching the top of the ball and pounding it into the earth for a routine groundout.
Scouts worried about the uptick in swing-and-miss and groundballs that would accompany the changes Everson implemented in his approach. Indeed, his 47.2-percent ground-ball rate was sixth-highest on the team, 32.4-percent chase rate fifth-highest, and whopping 40.2-percent whiff rate by far the worst on the team.
All this being said, there were still some good signs Pereira exhibited. His 91.9-mph average exit velocity is MLB-ready, as is his 7.5-percent barrel rate and impressive 54.7-percent hard-hit rate. With a 111.8-mph max exit velocity, he already finds himself in the top quarter of the league despite appearing in just 27 games. And despite adding weight to his frame, he was still in the upper-third league-wide when it came to sprint speed and 72nd percentile in outfielder arm strength.
There is clearly a lot Pereira still needs to work on. Hopefully he can hone his bat-to-ball skills with a full, uninterrupted year at Triple-A in 2024.