During Spring Training, the New York Yankees announced that they were holding a position battle to determine who their Opening Day shortstop would be. There were four candidates: Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza.
Kiner-Falefa was the Yankees’ primary shortstop in 2022, but after he was benched in the postseason and started getting reps in the outfield at the beginning of Spring Training, it was evident he'd lost the position battle before it really started. Cabrera, to a lesser extent, was under consideration to start at shortstop, but when it was announced that Harrison Bader would start the season on the Injured List, the Yankees needed Cabrera in the outfield.
That left the shortstop battle down to the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect Anthony Volpe and No. 3 prospect Oswald Peraza. Despite Peraza being more seasoned in the minors, making his major league debut in 2022 and even getting a start at shortstop in the American League Championship Series, Volpe beat out Peraza and made his major league debut on Opening Day.
Entering games played on July 17, Volpe’s 94 games played are tied for the most in Major League Baseball, while Peraza has only appeared in 13 games with the Yankees. With Josh Donaldson going on the 10-day IL, though, the Yankees recalled Peraza from the minors for the first time since early May. With the trade deadline only two weeks away, the Yankees need to give their 23-year-old infield prospect as much playing time as possible to determine whether he’s a part of their plans or whether they should trade him to improve their underachieving roster.
The Yankees are tied with the Boston Red Sox for last place in the American League after a series loss to the National League-worst Colorado Rockies. Since Aaron Judge started missing time with a toe injury, the Yankees are 14-19 and went from being 3.0 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays for the final Wild Card spot to 2.0 games behind the Houston Astros for the same slot (with Toronto surging ahead and Boston matching them).
After Judge went down with his injury, the Yankees desperately needed their veteran stars to step up, but that hasn’t been the case. Among Bronx Bombers with at least 100 plate appearances, Jake Bauers’ 114 wRC+ is the second-best on the Yankees behind Aaron Judge’s 187 wRC+. Bauers, too, is now hurt.
Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo are the only other Yankees to be above average offensively, each sporting 110 wRC+ marks, but Rizzo has fallen off of a cliff offensively since June.
Yankees need Oswald Peraza now, whether he's part of the future or not
While Giancarlo Stanton has begun to pick it up at the plate recently, his dreadful start to the season has him sitting at a 100 wRC+ and 0.2 fWAR – essentially a replacement-level player with a league-average bat.
Additionally, Bader and DJ LeMahieu are two players the Yankees need to step up. While he’s been great defensively and that’s his real strength, Bader has struggled immensely at the plate since June. Similarly, LeMahieu – who earned a six-year, $90 million extension two offseasons ago – hasn’t hit at all, as his 82 wRC+ is the worst of his career since 2014.
When a team trying to win the World Series continuously slots Bader and LeMahieu – who have both been below-average at the plate – into the middle of their lineup, it shouldn’t be a surprise when they fail to score runs.
Volpe has been much improved since his chicken parm extravaganza, but he’s quietly fallen into a slump, as he’s only picked up one hit in his last five games played. Even though his offense has been well below average (83 wRC+), Volpe's 1.3 fWAR is tied with Torres for second-best among Yankees position players.
With almost the entire Yankees infield and lineup altogether struggling, there’s no reason Peraza’s name shouldn’t be on the lineup card every day for the next two weeks. The Yankees’ season is quickly unraveling, and with one of their top prospects in the major leagues and in a position to receive actual playing time for the first time in pinstripes, it’d be a travesty to see him ride the pine.
As seen in Colorado on Sunday, Peraza can provide a real spark for the Yankees. Across just three innings played, Peraza stole a base, made a nice play at third base and smacked a 104.2 mph line drive RBI single into center field.
Peraza’s ability to play across the infield should make it easy for Aaron Boone to give him everyday playing time. If he makes the most of his opportunity, Peraza can help the Yankees turn their season around. If the Yankees don’t like what they see or deem Peraza can net them a star at the trade deadline, then they can just trade him.
The Yankees have nothing to lose by letting Peraza get consistent at bats. Boone and the front office just have to let him play.