Oswald Peraza gets a chance to force a change in Yankees’ third-base plan

Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza during the Yankees 9-3 thrashing of the Angels at Yankee Stadium on April 20, 2023.

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Oswald Peraza, one of the best prospects for the Yankees, has spent his whole professional career as an infielder in the midfield. He played either at shortstop or second base for the Yankees in the minor leagues for six years and last year’s MLB. But on Friday, Oswald Peraza started at third base for the first time in a big game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. He took charge of the “hot corner” for the first time.

Even though he hasn’t played third before and the Yankees already have a lot of infielders, there’s a chance that Oswald Peraza will stay there, at least for the next few weeks. His performance is likely to force the Yankees to change their third-base plan revolving around Josh Donaldson.

Oswald Peraza left in the spring only to come back

Oswald Peraza didn’t take long to get over the sadness he felt after the Yankees left him out in the spring. He knew that Anthony Volpe was the person to win the Yankees’ shortstop battle and didn’t feel bad about having to start the season back in Triple-A.

“When I was informed that I was going to be sent down,” Peraza said. “My response was, ‘That’s fine. I’m going to Triple-A, but I’m going to be working very hard to wait for an opportunity. And here I am today.”

But the Yankees brought Oswald Peraza back last Sunday following an injury to Giancarlo Stanton, and just like at the end of last season, he’s making an immediate impact, this time as a second baseman. Oswald Peraza was there when the Angels were beaten 9–3 on Thursday. He stopped Luis Rengifo from getting a hit in the eighth inning by moving far to his right, diving to make the stop, and then getting up quickly to throw to first for the out.

“Really, really good play to his left,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Very few people are getting the ball that he makes in that hole with that range he’s got.”

Shohei Ohtani hit two ground balls that Oswald Peraza picked off and turned into a double play in the ninth inning. He also helped at the plate. In the Yankees’ five-run first inning, he walked with the bases full and hit an RBI single in the Yankees’ three-run seventh inning.

“He’s one of the guys who had a real patient at-bat in the first and then a little add-on run with the good at-bat late,” Boone said.

Oswald Peraza always has had a good bat. He had a good season last year, hitting.250 with 19 homers and 50 RBI in 99 games. This year, in Triple-A, he was off to a good start, hitting. In nine games in AAA, he hit .290 and had 4 RBIs and 4 walks.

This spring, though, his bat was quiet, Oswald Peraza hit just .162 in 15 Grapefruit League games. He had one home run, two RBI, and an OPS of .616. These numbers were one reason Peraza was not picked, but they weren’t the only reason.

Volpe was much better, but Donaldson was not

Volpe is now showing the Yankees almost every day that they made the right choice to select him over Oswald Peraza for the shortstop position. But since his return to the Yankees lineup, Peraza has started two of the four games so far, both at second base and did well

Oswald Peraza is best known for his glove, but he has mostly played shortstop since he was a kid in Venezuela and started playing baseball. This year, he played three of his nine Triple-A games at second base, giving him a total of 15 games at second base in his six minor league seasons (2017–19 and 2021-23).

“Second base is something I worked on a lot the last year,” he said. “I feel very good there right now. I feel ready.”

But at third base, he is equally comfortable.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity that I have right in front of me,” Oswald Peraza said.

The 22-year-old is making the best of every chance. Donaldson would probably already be back in Triple-A if he hadn’t had a setback this week while recovering from a hamstring strain in what was meant to be his only rehab game with Somerset. He is already feeling better and Oswald Peraza might be sent back to Scranton. In the meantime, the top prospect is showing the Yankees that he can do more than one thing and that he deserves a spot on their big league team.

“He’s done a nice job,” manager Aaron Boone agreed.

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Luck favors the best

A new diagnosis has put Josh Donaldson back on the bench. The manager, Aaron Boone, said on Friday afternoon that the MRI on his right hamstring strain, which got worse during Tuesday’s one-game rehab assignment, showed a “Grade 1 Plus” strain. He won’t be there for the next two weeks.

That means that the third base will be open for a while. DJ LeMahieu will be in the Yankees’ lineup every day, but as a DH. The Yankees want to use the veteran more as a reserve player. Since Giancarlo Stanton is out for a few months with a leg strain, he can start at second base and switch with Gleyber Torres as the designated hitter. LeMahieu also fills in for Anthony Rizzo at first base. Isiah Kiner-Falefa has also played third base.

The injury to Donaldson gives the Yankees a chance to put Oswald Peraza in the mix every day. This clears the way for Oswald Peraza, who with a stellar performance can force the Yankees to put him before Donaldson, who is struggling with his performance.

Oswald Peraza may stay put

Anthony Volpe won the starting shortstop job in spring training, so Oswald Peraza was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start the year. That wasn’t a choice based on Peraza’s ability. Instead of sitting on the bench in the Bronx, they wanted him to play in every game so he could keep getting better.

“We’ll let those things play out,” said Boone before Friday night’s game. “Right now there’s an opening for Peraza to get in there and he’s done a really nice job in his couple of games, earning more opportunities.”

Oswald Peraza played second base on Thursday night and made a few good defensive plays. In the eighth inning of a win over the Angels, he hit a single that drove in a run. Including his first 18 games with the Yankees at the end of last season, Oswald Peraza is hitting.304 with an OPS of.829 and has scored 10 runs in 21 games in the major leagues.

Some infielders find it hard to play third base. Boone said that you need good footwork at third base because you have less time to respond. It’s called the “hot corner” for a reason. But Oswald Pereza is different and is ready for the job. On Friday, Oswald Peraza spent extra time practicing barehanded plays down the third-base line and throwing all the way across his body to first base before batting practice.

Boone is sure that Oswald Peraza, who is a great defender at shortstop, will be able to make the change smoothly and well.

Oswald Peraza of the New York Yankees
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“The person, the ability, the talent, the work,” Boone said. “He can catch the ball. With Oswaldo [Cabrera], we ripped the band-aid off even more so by throwing him in the outfield like we did. He’s a really talented defender, so I think he’ll be fine.”

No one has already jumped to the conclusion that Oswald Peraza is the long-term answer at third base. Again, his first day on the job was Friday. Still, it’s important to think about what this change will mean in the long run. The Yankees love Donaldson’s defense at third, and he will make $29 million through 2023, including an $8 million buyout before next season. However, if Oswald Peraza does well at third, Donaldson becomes less important to them.

Why keep Donaldson, who is getting old and doesn’t do much on offense? Since last spring, he has played in 137 games for the Yankees and hit.219 with 154 strikeouts. When other choices are producing, they are more likely to spark the team.

It’s not clear if the Yankees would be willing to send Donaldson to another team. The Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks is another guy who hasn’t done much for a long time. The outfielder Hicks doesn’t have a clear place on the active roster.

When asked if this is a tryout for Oswald Peraza at third base, which could be a long-term replacement for Donaldson after he got hurt, Boone said that the goal is still to “mix and match.” If Peraza has a good game, the Yankees might decide to change their plans.

“Right now there’s some opportunities,” Boone said. “I don’t put all that on him. The guy’s a really good player and going to be a really good player. Tonight, he’s a third for us.”

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