Will the Yankees infield be able to count on Opening Day 2023 with the new generation of the Bombers, Anthony Volpe and Venezuelan Oswald Peraza? That seems to be the hope of owner Hal Steinbrenner, who wants both prospects to have a chance to shine.
“In my opinion, they’re going to get the shot,” Steinbrenner said. “In March, I remember saying they were the infield of the future. That’s why we made those decisions last offseason, instead of going for a big free agent. They both progressed really well in the year.”
The shortstop pair, Volpe and Peraza, are the team’s No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline (outfielder Jasson Dominguez is second).
Peraza, 22, impressed after being promoted to the majors in September, hitting .306 (15-for-49) with eight runs scored, one home run and two RBIs in 18 games. In addition, he appeared in three games in the American League Championship Series against the Astros, including starting at shortstop in Game 2.
Volpe, 21, is the fifth best prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. The first pick in the 2019 New York Amateur Draft hit .249/.342/.460 with 86 runs scored, 35 doubles, 21 home runs, 65 RBIs and 50 stolen bases in 132 games between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton /Wilkes-Barre in 2022.
“I think we’re looking forward to seeing what these guys can do, fighting for a spot in the spring,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “But that does not mean that they are going to expel those who are now in the position. There are boys who arrive before their time. Robbie Canó was one of them, Alfonso Soriano too. Let’s hope these guys are as good as them. When they are ready, they will find the spaces”.
Even with Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson seemingly entrenched in the corners of the infield, there are several options for Peraza and Volpe, plus Venezuelan infielder/outfielder Oswaldo Cabrera, of whom Steinbrenner said: “He was a big surprise when he came up.”
The team has more questions surrounding infielder DJ LeMahieu, who opted for more conservative treatment for a foot injury that limited him in the second half of the season and kept him out of the playoffs. Cashman said the Yankees will find out later if LeMahieu will need surgery.
Although the Yankees signed Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a one-year, $6 million deal last week, there’s no guarantee Kiner-Falefa will be the first choice at shortstop. After playing the position for 131 games in 2022, the shortstop was benched in the ALDS against the Guardians.
Kine-Falefa won the 2020 Gold Glove at third base and could be moved to a utility spot, though a trade remains possible. The same with the Venezuelan Gleyber Torres, who was part of some talks at the trade deadline that would have brought the Venezuelan pitcher of the Marlins, Pablo López, to the Bronx. The Yankees backed out at the last minute.
Torres, who turns 26 in December, acknowledged at the end of the season that “I don’t know exactly how we will be next year.”
“Clearly the infield is a strength for us, more than any other sector,” Cashman said. “We went from having trouble getting players for those positions to having a bunch of guys who are fighting for infield spots, indicating it’s their turn now. We also have other players in those positions saying, ‘Not yet.’”
Steinbrenner said the final decision on whether to have Peraza, Volpe or both on the Opening Day roster will rest with Cashman and manager Aaron Boone. Steinbrenner mentioned that he has spoken with the veterans, who are excited to give the younger players opportunities.
However, it seems that Steinbrenner has his preference.
“Ultimately, it’s their decision, despite my opinion,” he said of Cashman and Boone. “But I think you’re going to see them get a lot of opportunities in the preseason.”
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Volpe and Peraza together from the beginning? Steinbrenner thinks so