We're officially at the point of Spring Training where the meaningless competition has gone too far and we're yearning to cut to the good part. Sometimes, that restlessness-by-design turns average fans into Charlie Kelly at the corkboard connecting things with string, trying to figure out whether Pepe Silvia could become the Yankees' fifth starter.
With a few bullpen roles up for grabs at Yankee camp and the left field role unsatisfyingly occupied by Aaron Hicks, there's plenty to stay focused on as we reach the one-week mark before Opening Day. By far the juiciest nugget, though, is the shortstop faceoff between Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza -- Isiah Kiner-Falefa and his catcher's mask no longer appear to be under consideration.
Peraza was the "incumbent" entering camp only because he had a month's worth of MLB experience and started Game 2 of the ALCS in Houston. If any top prospect was going to rise above and get the nod, it felt like him, especially since Volpe only had 22 good-not-great Triple-A games on his resumé. Would that be enough for the Yankees to overcome his service time concerns, hand the big-league job to him and never look back? For that to be a reality, he'd have to really pop beyond the numbers in spring action.
Well ... it's March 23. Volpe's put up the numbers. He also stole second base on a pitchout, then immediately stole third. Peraza's been solid in the field, but has slumped in recent weeks. It's enough to make a person wonder ... have the Yankees been revealing their cards over the past week's worth of lineups? Or has this all been a show?
Are Yankees hinting at Anthony Volpe making Opening Day roster?
The "Poker Face" fan in all of us wants this to be a mystery with the clues laid out. The realist in us still knows Hal Steinbrenner loves his service time dearly.
But in Thursday's spring lineup, Volpe played shortstop (and led off, a spot he's getting quite used to), while Peraza started and shifted to second. Before spring, the consensus was that one of the two middle infielders would eventually move to second base, spelling Gleyber Torres' fate. The consensus was also that the chosen player would be Volpe, who would be a defensive downgrade on Peraza -- in fact, one scout echoed that thought this week.
Maybe the Yankees disagree with that assertion. Or maybe they just want as much Volpe/shortstop data as possible before they make their decision, and already know all they need to about Peraza at the position.
Whatever the root cause, this is the second time over the past seven games that Volpe and Peraza have shared the field in the same lineup. Both times, Peraza has moved over to second and Volpe has kept hold on short.
- March 23: Volpe SS, Peraza 2B
- March 22: Peraza SS, No Volpe
- March 21: Volpe SS, No Peraza
- March 19: Peraza SS, No Volpe
- March 18: Volpe SS, No Peraza
- March 17: Volpe SS, Peraza 2B (1-2 in lineup)
- March 16: Peraza SS, No Volpe
Additionally, Volpe has batted higher in the order both times, and typically occupies the top half of whatever spring lineups he participates in (usually in the leadoff spot).
It could be a tease. It could be a fact-finding mission. Or it could be a hint that the Yankees believe in Volpe at the position and are ready to take the plunge.
It might take a few more "pound the table" meetings to reach a conclusion, but based on the tea leaves we're reading, the front office might be more aligned than previously thought.