Oswald Peraza's Triple-A hot streak has helped define his murky Yankees future
By Adam Weinrib
When the Yankees chose Anthony Volpe as their starting shortstop this spring, they also announced the creation of a stumbling block for the franchise moving forward.
For years, the assumption (among people who don't actually have to deal with this stuff head-on) was that Volpe and Oswald Peraza, two top-60 prospects, comprised the middle infield of the future, and that Gleyber Torres was a goner. Torres, though, is still a solid fit for a contender in 2023 with no motivation to roll the dice on two prospects at once. Therefore, the next assumption was that Volpe would bide his time in Triple-A while Peraza rose to the starting shortstop gig in the Bronx. Boom. Next year, Volpe takes over second base, and it's all gravy.
Except ... the Yankees didn't see Volpe and Peraza as interchangeable. Even though Peraza got the first call-up last year, New York judged Volpe to be superior, vaulting him ahead of his competition. They clearly believe he can handle shortstop long-term, or they wouldn't have given him the honor -- and, outside of a few errors and bad bounces, he's been fundamentally sound.
Peraza's role, in the aftermath of that seismic choice, remained a mystery. Would the Yankees really move their superior defender to second base for 2024 and beyond? Would Peraza still be here in 2024 and beyond? Were the Yankees showing, publicly, that they didn't believe in Peraza's big-league future? Or did they just run out of room?
Their usage of Peraza last season didn't tell us much. He was called up as a midseason savior, but his MLB debut was buried into the ninth inning of a lost cause. Oswaldo Cabrera, instead, emerged as the postseason starter and utility player they couldn't live without; Peraza got one rudderless postseason start, and was then returned to the bench. He was once again one of the team's earliest go-tos this April after a barrage of injuries, but barely produced, hitting .188 with a .535 OPS in sporadic playing time before turning his ankle.
Now, he's finally back with Scranton, and producing at a torrid pace, flipping his personal narrative once more. Peraza is almost definitely a major-leaguer, and possibly a high-caliber one. We thought that before he was demoted, but we can say it with a greater degree of certainty now that he's taken the kind of "I'm Over This" leap that most of us were seeking. But will he be a Yankee?
Oswald Peraza has MLB future. Future with Yankees? TBD.
Since being sent on a rehab stint, then demoted, Peraza has hit .414 and slugged .897 with four bombs through play on May 24. He's reached a personal career best in exit velocity on a scalded single.
He's figuratively, and literally, bent over backwards to show his worth; this behind-the-back double play toss was his best piece of Triple-A defensive wizardry this year.
Though the sample size is still small, Peraza has crossed the most important hurdle. He's not only muddled through his unfortunate demotion, but he's excelled. He's playing a caliber of baseball that does not belong in the high minors when he could've wilted and regressed.
Still, the question that dogged him at the end of March persists today. If he's not going to be the Yankees' starting shortstop moving forward -- and it seems, with almost 100% certainty, that he will not be -- will this overstuffed team plan to play him out of position, or will they move on?
The way they used him post-promotion indicated they weren't sold on his talents. They should be sold now. They should also sell.