Yankees shortstop competition between Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe coming down to wire
TAMPA, Fla. — The high-profile shortstop competition that has commanded the vast majority of attention at Yankees camp in spring training — both inside and outside the organization — seems headed for a photo finish.
With one week left in Grapefruit League play, the competition between Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe remains a dead heat.
It’s even possible that when the Yankees play their final exhibition game on March 28 against the Nationals in Washington, a winner will not have been determined.
“When do rosters have to be submitted?” manager Aaron Boone said only half-jokingly over the weekend.
Technically, not until the morning of the season opener on March 30.
Discussions and debate on the topic have been going on unofficially behind the scenes for the better part of a month, if not longer.
This week, those talks will begin in earnest. And an array of voices — from general manager Brian Cashman to Boone to members of the analytics department to the pro scouting department to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner — will be involved.
In a perfect world, the club’s preference is to find a way to put both Peraza, 22, and Volpe, 21, on the roster. But for that to happen, a trade likely would be needed.
The Yankees have received at least some interest in two of their infielders, second baseman Gleyber Torres and utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The latter entered spring training as a clear No. 3 in the shortstop competition, and early on, it became apparent that the respective skill sets of the touted prospects would earn one of them the job.
In an attempt to make himself more versatile, Kiner-Falefa started a game in centerfield on Friday — his first start there since 2017, when he was with Double-A Frisco. Kiner-Falefa impressed two rival scouts with how “natural” he looked in his routes to the ball.
If a trade is not worked out, the Yankees will have to make a decision.
Peraza, hitting .231 (6-for-26) with a .798 OPS in 11 games, is considered the better fielder. Boone has said he “looks the part” at shortstop.
On Sunday against Baltimore, Peraza made a terrific play on a short hop on Anthony Bemboom’s grounder in the third inning, then threw home to cut down a runner.
There are plenty in the organization who would lean in Peraza’s direction because of his ability with his glove. They also might point out that he impressed in limited time last year after a late-season call-up, making two starts in the ALCS against Houston. Volpe, on the other hand, has only limited experience in Triple-A.
Volpe, the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2019, is hitting .297 (11-for-37) with two homers and a .990 OPS in 13 exhibition games. He is a fine fielder as well, but most talent evaluators believe he can be an All-Star-caliber player at second base.
Volpe’s “elite bat-to-ball skills,” one National League scout said, are a separator for him when it comes to picking between the players.
But the scout added, “I don’t think you could go wrong with either one.”
That mostly echoes what is coming from inside the organization in one of the most fascinating Yankees spring training competitions in years. It’s one that has the clubhouse as interested as everyone else.
“A really good battle with two really good players,” Gerrit Cole said Sunday after allowing four runs and six hits in the Yankees’ 5-3 loss to the Orioles. “There’s no bad choice. It’s just kind of inspiring. It’s fun to watch. Everybody kind of feeds off of that energy.”