Oswald Peraza entered spring training as the favorite to win the Yankees’ shortstop job. Frankly, had he hit a bit better (think an .800 OPS or around that mark), he could have still gotten it. But Anthony Volpe had other plans.
While Peraza posted a .616 OPS, Volpe slashed .309/.415/.618 with three homers, five steals and a 1.033 OPS. When competition started to increase, late in the spring – cuts have been made and the quality of the opposition is superior – Volpe started to play even better ball, stroking hits off excellent major league starters like Pablo López and Aaron Nola.
The Yankees’ manager, coaches, and front office probably entered exhibition play thinking shortstop was Peraza’s position to lose or Volpe’s to win. Both scenarios presented themselves, and here we are.
Peraza will start the season with the RailRiders in Triple-A. That, understandably, is a tough pill to swallow for him from just about every standpoint. Every player dreams of playing in MLB, and he is ready. This is not a case of “let’s see him mastering Triple-A before consider a call-up”.
Peraza slashed .259/.329/.448 with 19 home runs, 33 steals and a 106 wRC+ in 429 plate appearances in Scranton last years, with excellent defense. He aced the level since June 11, with a 147 wRC+ and a .942 OPS in 234 plate appearances. He then went up to the Bronx and had a 146 wRC+ in 57 trips to the plate. Peraza also crucially flashed excellent defense during his big-league cameo; that he could fallback on a strong glove at a short seemed to give him a leg up in the spring competition with Volpe and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Spring training was not good for him, but Peraza still looks ready to be a 10-homer, 25-steal guy with respectable offense and strong defense. The ceiling is a tad higher if he can tap into some more power, even if it’s not quite elite.
The road just got a bit tougher, but that’s OK. Not making the team is not the end of the world for him, as he can make himself the top option if opportunities arise. He just has to keep his mind and body focused on performing despite the setback.
Injuries happen, and an opening could spring up at the Yankee infield at any moment through someone else’s struggles; and most importantly, everybody will be following him closely, not just the Yankees.
Peraza will be auditioning for an extended chance in the majors, even if doesn’t ultimately come with the Yankees. New York likely still thinks he could be a part of their future, but another team could be eager to trade for Peraza and hand him the keys to shortstop if he continues to stay sharp.
There is a real chance one of Gleyber Torres or Peraza is wearing another uniform in the second half or by 2024. Peraza will want to keep himself in shape and maintain those numbers attractive to earn playing time opportunities, be it in the Bronx or with another big-league club.
Those chances can still come with the Yankees, and they could still come relatively early in the season. For all we know, Josh Donaldson or DJ LeMahieu could get hurt, or Torres could be flipped elsewhere for pitching, opening up a spot in the infield.
There is also a chance Volpe struggles against MLB pitching and finds himself back in Triple-A in May or June. Do you care to guess who will the Yankees call up if that’s the case? Yes, Peraza.
In other words, he still has a million reasons to play his best baseball and be the best version of himself he can be. He has a chance to be the starting shortstop of an MLB team as soon as this year, and he has to play and prepare like one.