Coming into spring training, the possibility of Anthony Volpe being on the Opening Day roster, and starting at shortstop, was viewed as a bit of a longshot. Part of that was Volpe’s limited high minors track record, but one of the biggest reasons was the presence of Oswald Peraza as a more polished option, even if Peraza didn’t possess quite the same level of prospect pedigree.
Well, Volpe played his way into the starting role, and to no real fault of his own, Peraza went back to the minors to get everyday reps, and also to get some work at second base. Now, a couple of weeks in, the Yankees have the opportunity to let Peraza run with the job.
As you will have heard by now, the front office called up Peraza, with the placement of Giancarlo Stanton on the IL, with a hamstring issue that should keep him out for at least a month. But it remains somewhat unclear as to how the lineup will shake out, especially with Josh Donaldson expected to return this week.
Peraza should get everyday reps at the keystone, with Torres and DJ LeMahieu rotating at third base and DH. At this point, it is clear that Torres makes his biggest impact in the batter’s box, and his defensive position is a lot about putting him in the best spot to succeed with the glove. But with the DH role cleared with Stanton’s injury, the Yankees should take this opportunity to give Peraza the same chance Volpe had of running with a starting job.
Franchy Cordero has looked good in a limited sample, and he should get some work against right-handers. However, with Stanton on the shelf, the pros of rotating the DH role are outweighed by the con of blocking Peraza from playing every day.
Missing Stanton’s bat is quite significant, but it does bring up an opportunity to improve the team defense, as even with little career work at the position, Peraza is likely to do a better job than Gleyber over there. Peraza looked like a defensive whiz at short during his call-up last year, and could be top-tier on the other side of second. The Yankees called up Peraza with an injury that in a vacuum doesn’t necessarily open up playing time for him, but I’d like to believe they’ll maneuver some pieces to find that ideal defensive positioning, which would in turn give him a regular role.
The primary thing to avoid, and one that could hurt his development, is using Peraza as the first man off the bench, playing a once or twice per week to spell both Volpe and Gleyber on either side of that double-play combo, especially when that would mean more playing time for the likes of Willie Calhoun and even Cordero. Peraza needs to continue to play, to work on closing some of the gaps that still remain in his game. He’s good enough to contribute now, but sitting on the bench isn’t likely to help him keep improving.
It’s important to preach patience with the young guns. Some may present the argument of letting Peraza spell Volpe as the latter isn’t off to the hottest of starts, but the sample size is still too small to even entertain a change. Let us not forget that Adley Rutschman had a .529 OPS in his first 44 at-bats, and Aaron Judge struggled during his first big league stretch in 2016. It is normal for talented guys to take a minute to adjust to playing at the highest level. Both Volpe and Peraza should get the chance to do so.
At worst, let’s give Volpe the same leash Josh Donaldson got last season, as the Yankees’ shortstop is still providing positive value, thanks to his defense, and Peraza could very well do the same at second, while still keeping Gleyber’s bat in the lineup. They just can’t bury Peraza on the bench now that they’ve called on him with Stanton’s ailment.