Volpe-Peraza battle heads into home stretch

March 23rd, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- This spring, the Yankees are committed to saving their biggest camp decision for the very end. That’s how intense the battle for the starting shortstop job has been between Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, their Nos. 1 and No. 3 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline.

With only five days left until the Yankees break camp after Thursday’s 1-1 tie with the Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, both young infielders have had ample time to make their case in Grapefruit League play. Staff ace Gerrit Cole has weighed in. But the final decision seems like it’ll come down to the wire, especially after neither player moved the needle much on the team’s two-game swing along Florida’s east coast.

“We’re deciding on some good people, good players,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So hopefully, however we go, we’ll be in a good spot.”

The standout Thursday was more Nestor Cortes, who struck out seven across four scoreless innings in his second spring start, with Volpe lined up behind him at shortstop and Peraza at second base. Peraza went hitless in seven at-bats over the two-day span, while Volpe didn’t play Wednesday and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Thursday’s draw.

“It’s a healthy battle,” Cortes said. “It’s going to bring the best out of both of them. I’m rooting for both of them. It’s going to be tough, a tough decision for the organization and Booney. But I’m pulling for both of them.”

Here’s a brief overview of where the competition stands heading into the final days of Spring Training:

Spring numbers

Volpe: .279/.404/.535, .939 OPS, 9 runs, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 5 SB in 52 plate appearances
Peraza: .171/.293/.314, .607 OPS, 7 runs, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 SB in 41 plate appearances

The 21-year-old Volpe started his 11th game at shortstop on Thursday, while the 22-year-old Peraza has started 10 at the position.

The logistics

Peraza is on the 40-man roster after impressing in a 18-game cameo last September, when he hit .306/.404/.429 with a home run and two steals while playing both middle-infield positions. He’s seen as the better defensive shortstop but doesn’t have the all-around bona fides that made Volpe the club’s first-round Draft pick in 2019, and have him ranked as baseball’s No. 5 overall prospect. Peraza is considered the game’s No. 52 overall prospect.

Volpe would need to be added to the 40-man roster and has played only 22 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he hit just .236 with a .717 OPS down the stretch in 2022. Prior to that, he was one of the best players in Double-A, posting an .820 OPS with 18 home runs and 44 steals in 110 games at Somerset. Some scouts believe Volpe is better positioned defensively at second base, but the Yankees are deep there at the moment with Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu.

“He’s the kind of hitter who is going to control the strike zone, be disciplined and take tough pitches,” Boone said.

What they’re saying

Boone, on Peraza’s offense this spring
“For the most part, he’s been all right. Yesterday, he didn’t have great at-bats. Working on a little, small mechanical thing. When he gets his load in the right way, he’s pretty good. He’s been OK. He’s been OK. He’s impacted a few balls. Yesterday was the first day where I didn’t feel like his at-bats were great. Otherwise, whether he gets a result or not, the at-bats are all right.”

General manager Brian Cashman, on the shortstop battle (per the New York Post)
“We’ll make a decision when we have to in the very end. We still have some time on the clock, but we’ve had a good camp. A lot of good things to see. But we have time on the clock to make the final call.”