MLB

MLB Prospect Watch: How Yankees shortstop Oswald Peraza is putting himself on the map

One surefire way for a prospect to receive attention is to homer in three consecutive plate appearances. Another is to double their career home-run total over the season’s first 12 games. Oswald Peraza, a shortstop with the New York Yankees‘ High-A affiliate, accomplished both feats last week, thereby earning the spotlight in this edition of Prospect Watch.

Peraza, who will turn 21 years old in mid-June, had a more impressive week than the preceding paragraph suggests. He homered four games in a row and entered Wednesday with a seasonal line of .314/.397/.647. Add in his five home runs and nine stolen bases (on 10 tries), and he’s alleviating concerns about how the lost season would affect his development. (He wasn’t part of the Yankees’ 60-player pool, meaning he couldn’t partake in their alternate site games in 2020.) He’s also on his way to demonstrating the predictive power of a player’s max exit velocity.

Coming into the season, Peraza had seldom shown more than low-grade power. His best single-season slugging percentage was .368, and he’d homered just five times in 159 professional games. Yet some evaluators believed Peraza had more juice in his bat than he had displayed, noting that his hardest-hit ball in 2019 left the bat at 110 mph, or nearly seven ticks higher than his previous career best of 103 mph (set in 2018), per data obtained by CBS Sports.

For perspective, consider some of the notable prospects who had max exit velocity of 110 mph in 2019, and take note of their projected in-game power grade, all according to Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs.

The rationale behind that observation is similar to when a pitcher touches several ticks higher on the radar gun than usual: clearly the physical ability to do it is there; it’s just a matter of figuring out the optimized movement patterns and approach to do it again. Sometimes that means tweaking mechanics (Peraza has indeed made changes to his swing since 2019, including setting up with his hands higher and closer to his helmet than he had in the past), and sometimes that means giving the player time to develop strength as they mature.

So far it seems like the eureka moment Peraza experienced in 2019 is a sign of things to come. He hit a ball at 108 mph during the spring, and has already recorded six 100-plus mph batted balls in-season. His average exit velocity is, predictably, running the highest of his career. While he still gets underneath the ball too often, 40 percent of his batted balls this season have been in the so-called “sweet spot” range of 10 to 30 degrees; in 2019, he was below 30 percent. 

Peraza’s gains could be a gamechanger if they prove sustainable. He’s a promising defender with a strong arm who should remain at shortstop, and his above-average wheels ought to allow him to make an impact on the basepaths. The main question with his profile had been his bat, and whether it would play too light for him to project as more than a bench type. The closer he can get to average power output, the more likely it is he’ll have a future as a starting shortstop.

Peraza’s season is just getting started, but so far he’s doing what he can to land a spot on next spring’s top 50 list.



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