They aren’t yet boldface names in the Yankees Universe. Heck, they may never be -- they are prospects, after all. But Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza figure to garner a great deal of attention this winter as the Yankees try to decide on their next move at shortstop.
At the very least, both players will give the Yankees something to think about as they consider a glittery class of free agent shortstops that includes Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. If Gleyber Torres no longer has the job and the Yanks have two shortstops-in-waiting in the system, does a short stopgap make more sense than adding another nine-figure monster contract?
We live in an age where Yankee prospects sometimes are overhyped, but both Volpe, the Yanks’ No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, and Peraza, ranked third, draw serious praise from evaluators outside the Yankee organization.
To gauge their potential, and their potential timetables, we asked some experts.
"There’s a lot of David Wright in him," one scout who works for an opposing American League team said of Volpe.
"I love a guy like Volpe who plays with his heart. Always doing something, enjoys playing the game. I think it’s going to be something fun to watch. Who knows where it all goes?"
Of Peraza, the same scout said: "He’s magic with the glove. He’s a really good shortstop, can go any direction, make the charge play. He’s got a plus arm. He’s got a chance to hit. Sneaky power."
Volpe, 20, hurtled up rankings lists after a breakout 2021 in which he batted .294 with a .423 on-base percentage and .604 slugging in 109 games between Class A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley. He had 27 homers and 86 RBI, too, and added 33 steals in 42 tries. Only 16 players across all of Minor League Baseball had at least 20 homers and 20 steals.
Volpe was taken 30th overall in 2019 out of the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J. He signed rather than go to Vanderbilt, getting a $2.74 million bonus. Drafting Volpe that high raised eyebrows at the time since some evaluators wondered if he’d hit with authority, or if he could handle short. But he’s the 15th-best prospect in all of baseball now, according to MLB.com.
"Everybody in the industry was light on him, except the Yankees," said a second scout. "It’s a helluva draft pick now. I don’t think any of us saw the power coming."
"I don’t think even the Yankees expected 27 homers in his first full season," added Jim Callis, the MLB.com prospect analyst who oversees the Yankees’ rankings. "He always had an aptitude for the game. He used the down time (during the pandemic) to get stronger and he started driving the ball more. He’s a different guy. Now you’re looking at someone who could give you 20 home runs or more in the big leagues.
"He's a pretty dynamic player."
The second scout raved about Volpe’s already-developed knowledge of the strike zone. Volpe struck out 101 times, but he also walked 78 times. "Once I saw how well he was controlling the zone, I was like, 'Oh, boy,'" the second scout said.
"Controlling the strike zone is a finishing-type thing for a guy. The way he did it this year was impressive."
Scouts say Volpe is an accurate thrower at shortstop, someone who can make "all the plays," one said. But, at least outside the Yankee organization, there is curiosity about whether Volpe will remain a shortstop.
"I’m interested to see how long they keep him at shortstop," the scout said. "Can he play short? Yes."
Peraza, 21, signed out of Venezuela for $175,000 in 2016 and is ranked 58th on MLB.com’s list of top 100 prospects. He started 2021 at High-A Hudson Valley and got promoted twice, finishing with eight games in Triple-A.
His combined slash line was .297/.356/.477 with an .834 OPS. He hit 18 homers, drove in 58 runs, and stole 38 bases in 48 tries. In four seasons in the minors, he owns a .755 OPS.
"You always heard of his tools," Callis said. "I think Volpe is a better pure hitter, but he has more physical tools. He’s quicker and he has a better arm, so he projects a little better at shortstop. Good bat-to-ball skills, good exit velocity, power potential.
"I would hear from Yankee officials, ‘Hey, this guy is pretty good. It’s going to happen one of these years.'
"It happened this year."
Added the second scout: "Defensively, he could probably be in the big leagues right now."
Obviously, neither player is a finished product. They both have work to do. For instance, not everyone is convinced of Peraza’s offensive potential -- a third scout said he believed Peraza had regressed as a hitter early this year from when he had seen him earlier in his career and had written a glowing report.
While elite prospects can sometimes play so well that they force an accelerated timetable, it seems unlikely either Volpe or Peraza is a major contributor to the Yankees in 2022. But their promise should make the Yankees mull whether they need a splash at short, such as Marcus Semien or Trevor Story, or a one-year solution such as Andrelton Simmons or Jose Iglesias.
Callis says a 2023 arrival is "kind of realistic" for both Peraza and Volpe. Volpe has not played above High-A and Peraza has 87 career games at Double-A or higher.
"Peraza is closer than Volpe. He spent a week at Triple-A," Callis said. "But even though he’s played four years in the minors, he doesn’t have 1,100 at-bats as a pro. (He has 1,087).
"But it’s a credit to both of those guys, after losing at-bats because of the pandemic, that they played so well this year. Some guys in the minors really struggled. These two played at an extremely high level and got promoted. They were young for the levels they started the season at, too. It’s so impressive."
Added the first scout: "I don’t think these two guys are overinflated. They are core-type players. Both of them really put the work in to become better."
Even if the Yankees do sign a boldface name, who knows what their infield might ultimately look like.
As Callis put it, "If they sign Correa, by the end of 2023, he could be playing third, Volpe could be at second and Peraza at short."