The New York Yankees issues at shortstop over the past few seasons have been well documented. Since the departure of Didi Gregorius, the Yankees have had trouble adjusting at shortstop. Gleyber Torres has played well, when he’s at second base. Shortstop has proved to be an issue for him, both defensively and offensively. DJ LeMahieu has filled in admirably, but has generally performed better when he starts at second or third base. The 2021-2022 free agent class is loaded with shortstops. All of Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien and more have been touted as potential Yankees targets, but perhaps the answer to New York’s shortstop woes lies within rather than outside.
First off, who are the potential answers at shortstops? Over the last decade or so, the Yankees have quietly been developing premier middle infield talent, with Torres being the key contributor. But a few more marquee names are waiting in the Yankees’ prospect wings; Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza and Trey Sweeney.
Volpe, the 30th overall selection in the 2019 draft, came into the organization as a surprising pick. Volpe entered pro ball who solid tools, but nothing that necessarily stood out. All of that changed during the 2021 season. Volpe batted just .215 with a pair of homers and 11 RBIs during his 34-game debut season. With the coronavirus wiping out the 2020 season, Volpe spent his time building muscle and working on his swing. The results paid off. Volpe crushed the ball all year, posting a .294/.423/.604 slash line with 27 homers, 35 doubles, 86 RBIs and 33 stolen bases across 109 games en route to being named MiLB’s hitting prospect of the year.
Volpe followed an offensive breakout with improved defense as well. Volpe’s arm isn’t enough to keep him at shortstop, but he has natural shortstop instincts and a quick release on his throws which should be enough to keep him there. Volpe figures to open the 2022 season at Double-A. A 2023 promotion seems most likely, but if the Yankees miss on the big free agents and Volpe continues to crush the ball, a late season 2022 call-up is possible.
Peraza, a 2016 international signing out of Venezuela, has moved up the ladder quickly during his time in the Yankees’ organization. Just 21 years old, Peraza worked his way up to Triple-A during his 2021 campaign. For good reason too, Peraza batted .297 with 18 homers, 58 RBIs and 38 stolen bases over 115 games across three levels throughout the season, even earning a spot on the Yankees’ taxi squad for the Field of Dreams game against the Chicago White Sox. Peraza’s 18 homers might register as a surprise at first glance. He profiles more as a line-drive contact hitter with supreme exit velocity. But the 2021 season saw Peraza learn to launch the ball more frequently, tapping into his 20-homer ceiling.
Defensively Peraza’s speed serves him well. He glides to the ball and has a stronger arm than one would think. He has an excellent defensive profile and has all the tools to stay there for the long term. If the Yankees miss on the big free agents, Peraza could be a dark horse candidate to make the team out of spring training, but starting the season in Triple-A seems most likely. If he continues to play well, a midsummer call-up is very much possible.
Sweeney, the 20th overall pick in the 2021 draft, was also a surprise pick by the Yankees. Projected to land in the middle of the second round, the Yankees liked what they saw and made sure to grab him early. He made sure to prove them right in his first professional season. Sweeney started his career off with a bang, batting .261 with seven homers over his first 32 professional games. Sweeney’s swing features a lot of moving parts, but he has sound mechanics and repeats his motions well. Sweeney doesn’t sell for power either, he drives the ball to all fields consistently.
Defensively, Sweeney doesn’t figure to last at shortstop for long. Standing at 6’4″, Sweeney is tall for a shortstop. His large frame doesn’t grant him a lot of speed, and he figures to move to one of the corners eventually. His strong arm lends well for a move to third base, but for the time being, he’s a shortstop. As a 2021 draft pick, Sweeney still has a few years of development before a potential big league call-up. That being said, Sweeney has the tools to succeed in the big leagues.
If the Yankees end up missing on every free agent shortstop they’re targeting this offseason, what happens after that? New York could turn to LeMahieu to hold down shortstop for awhile. Perhaps Torres gets another shot? Peraza could end up breaking the team out of spring training with a massive spring showing, but that seems unlikely. Maybe a trade for old friend Gregorius? Whatever the answer might be, the amount of reinforcements waiting in the prospect wings should give Yankees fans hope. Missing out on the big free agent targets doesn’t spell doom. In fact, it could end up being a boon for a team that just found itself under the luxury tax. Perhaps the money saved could go towards a potential big name rotation signing and a much rumored Matt Olson trade and even a Starling Marte signing? Going for the biggest name on the market is typical Yankees style, but it might not be the best move this offseason, especially considering who could be manning shortstop in just a few seasons.