Everson Pereira stands a chance to make Yankees comeback

Yankees outfielder Everson Pereira was 2-for-3 on Friday night with a two-run home run and a base hit

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Before Everson Pereira‘s initial major league experience concluded last fall, Yankees manager Aaron Boone offered the outfield prospect some pointed criticism. Boone emphasized that success in the majors hinges on capitalizing on hittable pitches, a challenge the Yankees prospect faced during his 27-game stint with the Yankees.

Boone remarked in mid-September that Pereira often failed to take advantage of pitches he could damage, frequently resulting in foul balls or swings and misses. “That’s the difference between succeeding here and not,” Boone noted.

Pereira was given 103 plate appearances to demonstrate his ability to adjust to major league pitching, a rare chance for consistent playing time during the Yankees’ usual contention period in August and September. If the prospect had continued his impressive Triple-A hitting in the Bronx, it might have influenced New York’s offseason decisions. The Yankees might have reconsidered trading for both Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo if Pereira had shown he was ready to take over in left field.

However, Pereira’s performance fell short, as he hit just .151 with a .427 OPS, striking out 40 times and posting a 43.1% whiff rate. His OPS never surpassed .500 during this stretch.

Pereira’s professional career has been hampered by his tendency to swing and miss, along with issues in pitch selection and managing an aggressive approach. Until he addresses these aspects, his raw power and impressive exit velocities will remain underutilized.

Everson Pereira of the Yankees is batting against the Blue Jays on March 1, 2024.
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Can Pereira make a Yankees comeback?

Pereira has slipped from the spotlight after his disappointing debut and the acquisitions of Soto and Verdugo, coupled with the rise of higher-ranked outfield prospects Spencer Jones and Jasson Dominguez.

Everson Pereira’s path back to wearing Yankees pinstripes this season is contingent upon injuries and unforeseen circumstances. While he was a hyped prospect to monitor at Triple-A last year before earning a call-up, Pereira is more of an afterthought in 2023.

However, he is not the first prospect to struggle mightily during an initial big-league opportunity, nor will he be the last. In a conversation with NJ Advance Media this week, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hitting coach Trevor Amicone listed household names like Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Jackson Holliday – sent down by the Orioles after a poor debut earlier this year – as examples of top prospects getting “punched in the mouth” early in their MLB careers.  

Amicone explained that people often don’t realize how difficult that first major league experience can be, with flaws unexposed at lower minor league levels suddenly laid bare “in front of the entire world.” According to him, it takes time to mentally and emotionally adjust, but once players remember the elite skills that got them to that point, they can get back to work.

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Amicone disclosed having a recent conversation with Judge specifically about that process related to Pereira. When asked about Pereira’s uncertain future in the organization, he envisioned the Yankees demoted the rookie to help him become the best player possible. They aim to prepare him to excel at the highest level, then let circumstances play out organically.

“Regardless of who it’s with, we want Everson to play in the big leagues and be really, really good,” he said. “We want him to be really good for us. And if that happens, great. If it happens with somebody else, and he’s helped us win, I think we’re going to be happy for everybody and he’s going to be happy for everyone too.”

Pereira isn’t the first top Yankees prospect to scuffle out of the gate, nor is he in uncharted waters having to re-establish himself after a disappointing first MLB stint. Players like Judge provide a template for persevering through that adversity.

Everson Pereira’s numbers at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season might initially suggest a downturn from his standout 2022 performance. His batting average has slid from .312 to .265, and despite leading the team with 10 home runs as of Wednesday, his strikeouts have surged. Pereira has struck out 59 times in 182 plate appearances, resulting in a 32.4% strikeout rate, up from 27.8% in his 158 Triple-A plate appearances last year.

However, those statistics don’t fully capture Pereira’s recent progress after making adjustments to his bat path, a tweak similar to one made by Yankees sophomore Anthony Volpe, according to hitting coach Trevor Amicone.

Amicone explained that the adjustment was helping Pereira be flatter through the zone and make contact whether he’s slightly behind a fastball or facing off-speed pitches in the zone. This adjustment is giving him more length through the zone and helping him stay on the plane longer.

The improvements are evident. Pereira’s strikeout rate was 37% over his first 19 games but has decreased to 28.7% over his last 21 games. Amicone noted that the outfielder’s swing-and-miss rate has significantly dropped during this recent period.

Despite a lower OPS, wRC+, and a slight decline in his walk rate over the past three weeks, there are positive signs in addressing his primary weakness over a limited sample size. Reducing his swing-and-miss rate could benefit all parties, whether it helps Pereira secure a spot in New York or boosts his trade value for a potential midseason or offseason move.

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