Which SS will be behind Cole on OD? Ace weighs in

March 19th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- As the spring competition between and enters its final week, is as interested as anyone to learn who will be playing shortstop behind him on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.

With transitioning into a utility role, the battle between Peraza and Volpe could come down to the end of camp, according to manager Aaron Boone. Cole said there’s “no bad choice” between Peraza and Volpe, and he believes they can both help the big league club win when the season begins on March 30.

“It’s exciting. Every time somebody comes up, we talk about young players and the energy they can shoot into the club,” Cole said on Sunday as the Yankees fell to the Orioles, 5-3. “Everybody relates to a young player coming up for the first time, because they remember experiencing those emotions as well. It’s just kind of inspiring. It’s fun to watch.”

There will be a series of meetings early this week that will provide coaches and executives with an opportunity to “pound the table” for their favored choices, in Boone’s words. So far, at least, Boone said that no players have come to him lobbying for the club to carry one -- or both -- of the rookies.

“I think everyone in that room understands there’s two really good players there, and guys with really bright futures,” Boone said.

Peraza, 22, started at shortstop on Sunday, going hitless in three at-bats to drop his spring average to .214 (6-for-28) with a home run. The Yankees’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Peraza has earned compliments from Boone for having “looked the part” defensively.

“I’ve felt really good throughout camp,” Peraza said through an interpreter. “I find myself in a really good spot. I feel like I’m ready to start the season.”

He flashed his comfort in the field during the third inning, fielding an Anthony Bemboom grounder and throwing home to catcher Carlos Narvaez, nailing Daz Cameron attempting to score instead of taking a more assured out at first base.

“Excellent play today,” Cole said. “That’s pretty close to an ‘80’ runner at third. The ball was hit hard with a couple of hops and gave him an opportunity to go home. All in all, just a great play. Perfectly executed.”

Said Boone: “When Oswald first started coming home, I was like, ‘No!’ I didn’t think he had a play; I’m like, ‘Let’s go to first with that.’ That was just one of those really good, all-around great plays.”

Cole said that he was struck by Peraza’s diligent preparation after the Yankees called him up on Sept. 1.

“He wouldn’t play for three days, and then the first pitch, 95 [mph], barrel, middle,” Cole said. “That means the guy is taking care of his stuff before he gets in that box. He’s not kicking his feet up on days that he’s not playing.”

The 21-year-old Volpe is the Yankees’ top prospect and baseball’s No. 5 prospect overall, according to MLB Pipeline. He has been a standout in his first big league camp, batting .297 (11-for-37) with eight runs, four doubles, two homers, three RBIs and four stolen bases in 13 Grapefruit League games.

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that he envisions Peraza and Volpe as the club’s future up the middle. Scouts believe that Peraza may have an easier time remaining at shortstop, with some opining that Volpe’s arm will prove better suited for second base in the long term.

“I think they’re both great,” Cole said. “I think they both have a great approach. They work hard. Peraza came up last year and I got to know him a little bit; same with Oswaldo [Cabrera]. They were so pro; they were able to assimilate … Volpe has a high level of deliberate preparation as well, which is why everybody’s so high on him and I think why he impacts everyone he plays around.”

Though they are battling for the same job, Peraza said that he and Volpe have maintained their friendship, saying that the fast-rising duo has been “giving it everything we have.”

“Eventually, the team will make a decision, right?” Peraza said. “They have to make a decision and put a team on the field. For me, it’s really focusing on the day to day and to keep doing my job.”