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Oswald Peraza needs to be included in the Yankees’ short-term plans

The rookie infielder is tearing up Triple-A and should be a part of the Yankees’ future... and present

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Before spring training, the Yankees let it be clear that Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe were going to compete for the shortstop gig. The latter won, fair and square, and Peraza’s future in the franchise became murky.

If the first two months of the season have taught us something, however, is that spring training stats come with a lot of asterisks, and regular season performance is a much better way to evaluate skill whether it is in the majors or in Triple-A. Peraza’s spring OPS was .616, and while he hasn’t really produced in MLB this year (64 wRC+), he has gotten just 38 plate appearances.

What we can say about his season is that Triple-A is no longer a challenge for him.

In 123 trips to the plate, the talented infielder is slashing a cool .324/.390/.631 with 10 home runs, six stolen bases, a 152 wRC+ and a 1.021 OPS. Take a minute to understand just how good he has been at the level so far.

It’s a sizable step forward from the 106 wRC+ he had in Scranton last year. Yes, he turned things on in mid-June in 2022, but we can’t completely ignore the struggles prior to that. This time, he is leaving no room for doubt: his bat is ready for the next level.

Now, Volpe has mostly struggled at the MLB level, but the Yankees are committed to seeing him make adjustments and succeed, and that’s more fine. He is young and talented and contributes on several fronts; jerking him around now would not serve his development. But Peraza deserves to be playing in the bigs too. So, what can the Yankees do?

First, it would be in the organization’s best interests to have Peraza transition to third base in Scranton, or at least alternating between shortstop and the hot corner, for a few days. Since the Yanks are committed to Volpe, and Gleyber Torres is a quality player at second base, Peraza’s short-term home could be third base. In fact, he played more innings there than in any other position during his brief time in the majors this year.

With all due respect to Josh Donaldson, who has had an amazing career to this point (and, to his credit, has been hot since returning from injury), the Yanks’ best infield has Peraza, Torres, and Volpe in addition to Anthony Rizzo playing first base. Even as good as Donaldson’s been over the last few days, it’s hard to know how much trust to put in the bat that frustrated for most of 2022 (86 wRC+ from June onward, and below average on the year). Between Volpe, Torres, and Rizzo, Donaldson is the best candidate to see reduced playing time, Peraza makes sense as a third baseman.

Lots of former shortstops have made a successful transition. Alex Rodríguez, back in the 2000s, is one. Manny Machado is the prime example among active players, but Baltimore Orioles’ rookie Gunnar Henderson also switched positions.

Third base requires more throwing arm and reactions, whereas shortstop is more about range, footwork, and soft hands. Peraza is so good with a glove on his hand that he can cover both positions without any major issues.

How to accommodate all the pieces in total? That’s the challenge. The Yankees would have six infielders for four spots: Peraza, DJ LeMahieu, Volpe, Donaldson, Rizzo, and Torres.

New York could implement a rotational system, or a platoon-like approach to find semi-regular playing time for all the players when they are all healthy. Take advantage of the versatility of some guys: Volpe and Peraza could play short, and the latter can be an option for third along with Donaldson and LeMahieu. Peraza, Torres and DJLM can defend the keystone, and the 2020 AL batting champ and MVP candidate can spell Rizzo at first base when needed.

Consider, in addition, the DH spot. Giancarlo Stanton, who occupies it most days, can also join the system by playing the outfield on occasion or getting a day off to help preserve his health. Rizzo and Donaldson could also benefit from occasional days off.

It’s not a perfect system, but at least the Yanks wouldn’t have a young, talented infield option being ‘wasted’ in Triple-A when he is a better option than some of the currently available infielders. This way, all deserving players would get to the field (among infielders, at least); and it should be noted that injuries will almost always open up even more time for everyone. They are inevitable.

Realistically, Donaldson is highly unlikely to be designated for assignment so bringing up Peraza could potentially result in losing a player like Willie Calhoin or Jake Bauers. Or, it could auger another Oswaldo Cabrera demotion. The outlined plan could result in some tough roster decisions.

It’s just hard to argue against having a potential difference-maker in the MLB lineup. Peraza has that kind of potential and is showing it in Triple-A. It’s time for a new challenge.