The Yankees' Isiah Kiner-Falefa practices on the field at the...

The Yankees' Isiah Kiner-Falefa practices on the field at the team's training facility in Tampa, Fla., on Monday. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. — Just about every Major League Baseball team will talk about having an “open” competition for one position or another entering a given spring training.

But some of those competitions are more open than others.

The clubs generally have a favorite, a player they’d prefer to win a job. And regardless of how spring training plays out, that player ends up the starter for Opening Day.

So just how open is the Yankees’ competition at short, which will be waged primarily between the incumbent Isiah Kiner-Falefa and touted position prospects Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera?

“Wide open,” one staffer said. “Completely.”

In other words, the club as of now doesn’t seem to have a preferred outcome, other than it’s fair to say there is an organizational desire to see one of the prospects take the job with a standout exhibition season. The best-case scenario, of course, would be for Volpe, Peraza and Cabrera — and Kiner-Falefa for that matter — to each have terrific camps to make the decision for the Yankees as difficult as possible.

There are those on the inside who would like to see Volpe win the job to fulfill the hype that has accompanied the 21-year-old almost from the time he was taken in the first round (30th overall) of the 2019 draft.  

The Yankees also like the potential pop of Volpe’s bat; he hit a combined 21 homers last season between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

It should be pointed out that within the industry, including the Yankees’ organization, there is a difference of opinion regarding Volpe’s long-term future and if it's at shortstop. An almost equal number of talent evaluators, pretty much all of whom see Volpe enjoying varying degrees of success in the majors, project him eventually at second base or third.

The 22-year-old Peraza has dazzled with his glove each step of the way in his climb to the majors, including when he received the occasional time at short after making his big-league debut Sept. 2. Peraza has no shortage of fans organizationally.  

And, one club insider said, “don’t sleep on Oswaldo” in the competition, meaning the 23-year-old Cabrera. “He’ll get his reps there [at short], too.”

Cabrera came up in the system as an infielder and surprised many, both on the inside and the outside, with his quick adjustment to the outfield after being called up in August.  

Kiner-Falefa had a disappointing 2022, mostly at the plate, hitting .261 with a .314 on-base percentage. But the 27-year-old, a former AL Gold Glove winner at third, would also be the first to say he was also a disappointment in the field because of his inconsistency at short, a truism regardless of the internal numbers the Yankees continually referenced when questioned about Kiner-Falefa’s defense.  

The competition begins in earnest Monday when the Yankees have their first full-squad workout at Steinbrenner Field, and far and away is the most interesting aspect of camp as there is little drama elsewhere when it comes to the starters (there will be a competition for the job in left that includes Cabrera, among others, but Aaron Hicks, should the Yankees fail to trade him, comes in as the favorite).

“He’s got to go and compete in spring training next year,” Brian Cashman said of Volpe in November at the annual general managers’ meetings. “He’s had an amazing run to his pro career, which has been all minor leagues so far. So Volpe, along with Peraza and Cabrera, those guys will be expected to be in spring training and competing for everyday reps with everybody else that’s still standing . . . We’ll see. He’s [Volpe] done everything he needs to do to push himself into this opportunity and we’ll see where it takes him.”

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