1. Oswald Peraza
Has any Yankees shortstop following Derek Jeter faced less pressure than Oswald Peraza? Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa feel like they were chewed up and spit out at various times. Peraza's arrival was met with relief from Yankees fans.
He got the call when rosters expanded in September and took some reps from the disappointing IKF down the stretch. He eventually got a start in the ALCS when fan frustration reached an all-time high with IKF. Peraza's slick glove and electric bat (.306 AVG, .832 OPS in 18 regular-season games) has many feeling optimistic.
But still, it feels like more focus is on top prospect Anthony Volpe, who will also be competing for the starting shortstop job, but is certainly a longshot because of his limited experience beyond Double-A. Peraza already paid his dues at Triple-A, and has proven himself at the big-league level, even though the sample size has been small.
On top of avoiding rosy projections thus far, many Yankees fans are trying to envision what the infield might look like should Volpe make the Opening Day roster. Even if that doesn't happen, others are envisioning a world where at least one of IKF, Torres or Josh Donaldson are traded before the season starts (or by the deadline). There's more concern with cleaning up the mess rather than living with what's on the roster.
That turmoil has taken the spotlight off Peraza, who should win the job with even a pedestrian showing in spring training. He's already contributed to a division winner in Sept. and Oct., so he should have no problem picking up where he left off.
As the trade rumors continue to swirl alongside Volpe's journey (after getting invited to spring training), Peraza will sit back comfortably, play his game, and be a surprise rookie performer in the eyes of the general baseball community as we progress through 2023.