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Oswald Peraza had a strong case to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop

Despite his inferior spring training, Peraza would have been a worthy pick.

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

This spring training for Yankees fans has been one full of excitement. From “The Martian” blasting home runs left and right (he got on base, too) to other prospects like Andrés Chaparro and players like Willie Calhoun leaving their marks as well.

However, the 2023 spring training games have been defined by performances from the team’s top two shortstop prospects, Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. There has been loads of discourse surrounding these two and which of them should get the start on Opening Day, and even though Aaron Boone made his decision to choose Volpe while demoting Peraza, there’s still a case for the latter to be the guy in the six hole.

First, let’s get it out of the way. None of what I’m saying here means I think Volpe didn’t have a better spring training than Peraza. He did, and I’m fully willing to admit that. His numbers are fantastic, there’s no denying that, and he performed some of his magic against major league pitchers. He deserves the opportunity to start on Opening Day.

Peraza has played 15 games in spring training and has slashed .190/.306/.310 for an OPS of .616. In 42 plate appearances he has eight hits, which is tied for 12th on the team with Josh Donaldson, but he’s also walked four times and only struck out seven times (tied for 15th).

Even though Peraza has not had the spring training we all thought he would have, it’s important to remember that he had an excellent showing in his stint with the Yankees last season. His spring numbers should be put into context because there’s a mix of major league players and prospects on here. We also don’t have other numbers that would normally be available to use. But we do have that in MLB, and considering that’s where Peraza partially played last season, let’s look at those!

In 18 games with the Yankees last season and 57 plate appearances, he slashed .306/.404/.429 and had a wRC+ of 146. Not bad! He was very clearly a difference maker both in the batter’s box and in the field, making Yankees fans feel much more comfortable with their guy in that position than Isiah Kiner-Falefa did. The sample size is small (just like spring training), but the fact he was able to do that kind of stuff in real major league games counts for something, despite his overall rough spring training performance. Peraza also outhit Volpe in Triple-A last year, with a 106 wRC+ in 99 games to Volpe’s 91 in 22 games; the latter was likely going through adjustments to a higher level, and that could reasonably be expected for this upcoming April in The Show as well.

No one is going to find me running down streets and spreading the narrative that Volpe hasn’t deserved his shot at cracking the Opening Day roster. He earned the nod from management, and now Peraza will have to rebound in order to join him up with the major league team. However, given Volpe’s limited time at the Triple-A level as well as Peraza’s limited time at the major league level, it truly came down to the wire in spite of the major disparity in spring performances.

Peraza deserves a chance to show that he can stick around at this level as a shortstop or even just as a hitter. We know he can field the ball very well, and rock-solid reliability with the glove is oh-so-important at the six hole. Given that Volpe doesn’t project to be nearly as strong defensively, there’s room to eventually field both players — but factors both in and out of Peraza’s control have to be satisfied first. The biggest question that the 23-year-old currently can tackle is whether or not he can hit enough at a major league level? Even though he showed that in the 18 games last season, it’s too small a sample size to be sure of anything just yet.

Why Peraza’s spring training hasn’t been great has been a mystery. He’s a talented player who isn’t hitting well, and sometimes that happens, which is why he deserves his shot unimpeded in MLB. He and Volpe will have plenty of time in tandem together, and even though the choice has been made, there are reasons to believe he should have gotten the nod, and could still in the not-so-distant future.