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Yankees 2023 Season Preview: Oswald Peraza

The Yankees prospect, assumed to be in the rotation for a starting infield role, looms as a key piece in 2023.

MLB: MAR 16 Spring Training - Pirates at Yankees Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Yankees called up Oswald Peraza at the beginning of September last season, and all Peraza, one of the organization’s top prospects, did down the stretch was impress. Now, months later, he seems to have the inside track on holding down a rather prestigious job: starting shortstop for the New York Yankees.

He’s fought a nagging leg injury throughout the spring, but he recently returned to the lineup and is getting critical spring reps, at the plate and in the field. While no one expects Peraza to be the make-or-break piece of the Yankee puzzle, he has the potential to be an important player due to his well-rounded skillset at one of the sport’s most crucial defensive positions.

2022 Minor League Statistics: 99 games, .259 BA, .778 OPS, 33 SB

2022 Yankees Statistics: 18 games, 57 PA, .306 BA, .832 OPS, 0.5 bWAR

2023 ZiPS Projections: 497 PA, .243 BA, .685 OPS, 22 SB, 2.1 fWAR

Peraza is one of the Yankee prospects at the vanguard of a wave of young players on the verge of busting down the door to the majors. Heading into this season, Baseball America ranks him 62nd on its list of MLB’s top 100 prospects, MLB places him 52nd, and Baseball Prospectus 48th. There is definitely a consensus that Peraza is one of baseball’s most promising young players.

One reason for the optimism around Peraza is his skill with the glove. Keith Law, in his write-up for The Athletic (he ranks Peraza 76th on his top-100 list) compliments Peraza’s defense, noting that he is already a plus-defender at shortstop. FanGraphs concurs, with the following description:

“Peraza’s true carrying tool is his shortstop defense. He is sure-handed and slick, twitchy and acrobatic, wielding plus range, hands, actions and arm strength. His internal clock is precise and allows him to make fundamentally uncompromised throws to first with confidence because he knows he’s going to beat the runner there.”

The eye test seems to confirm the analysis, as evidenced by the outstanding play Peraza made earlier this spring to initiate a double play. His defensive value at shortstop should make Peraza a valuable player regardless of his hit tool as he gets his first extended taste of major league pitching.

Peraza, though, looks like he has the potential to be much more than an all-glove, no-bat shortstop. His bat improved throughout his minor league career, and though he started slowly at Triple-A in 2023, he was a much better hitter as the season progressed, culminating in a rather gaudy offensive stat line in his 2023 cup of coffee with the Yankees.

Still, there are questions about how his bat will play in the big leagues. Law notes Peraza’s need to be more selective at the plate and less pull-happy. That critique notwithstanding, Law sees the potential for 15-20 home runs per year from Peraza, to go along with his sterling glovework.

There is also speed to spare in Peraza’s tool kit. FanGraphs assigned a 60 run grade for Peraza, and the results on the bases match the scouting. Each of the past two seasons, he stole at least 33 bases in the minor leagues. With the new rule changes limiting pickoffs, enlarging the bases, and implementing a pitch clock, there should be opportunity for Peraza to be a disruptor on the bases from the bottom of the Yankee order.

New York stayed out of the free agent shortstop market each of the past two offseasons, in no small part because they had Peraza and fellow top prospect Anthony Volpe on the verge of the big leagues. Moreover, GM Brian Cashman avoided dealing either of them when other clubs asked for them.

Now, we’ve seemingly reached the beginning of the process to see if the front office’s gamble paid off. Peraza looks like he’ll be somewhere in the Opening Day infield and with his torrid spring, Volpe is not far behind. It’s important to remember, though, that this is the beginning of the process.

Peraza started 2022 ice-cold, with batting averages of .197 and .216 in the first two months before he adjusted and heated up. It’s entirely possible, even reasonable to expect, that he could struggle in his first extended experience against the best pitching on the planet. But even if he goes through growing pains at the plate, his glove, speed, and baserunning skills provide him with ways to still contribute to a club that is expected to compete for a championship.