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“In my opinion, they’re going to get a shot,” Steinbrenner said. “In March, I remember saying that they’re the middle infield of the Yankees in the future. That’s why we made some of the decisions in the offseason, as opposed to going out and getting a huge free agent. They both progressed really well this year.”
A pair of shortstops, Volpe and Peraza are the Yankees’ No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, respectively, according to MLB Pipeline (outfielder Jasson Domínguez is between them at No. 2).
The 22-year-old Peraza impressed after being promoted to the big leagues in September, batting .306 (15-for-49) with eight runs scored, a home run and two RBIs in 18 games. He also appeared in three games of the ALCS against the Astros, including a start at shortstop in Game 2.
Volpe, 21, is ranked as baseball’s No. 5 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Yanks’ first-round selection in the 2019 Draft, Volpe batted .249/.342/.460 with 86 runs, 35 doubles, 21 home runs, 65 RBIs and 50 stolen bases in 132 games for Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this past season.
“I think we’re all looking forward to seeing what these kids can do, competing for a spot in the spring,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “But that doesn’t mean that they’re going to oust who’s currently in those spots, either. … Guys push their way into the mix maybe ahead of their time. Robbie Cano was one of those guys. Alfonso Soriano was one of those guys. Hopefully the guys who are coming are as good as those former players were. When they’re ready, you make room for them.”
Even with Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson seemingly entrenched at the infield corners, there are several ways that the Yankees could accommodate Peraza and Volpe, as well as infielder/outfielder Oswaldo Cabrera, whom Steinbrenner said “was a great surprise when he came up.”
The club is uncertain about the Opening Day availability of infielder DJ LeMahieu, who has opted for a conservative treatment route on the right foot injury that hindered him in the second half of the regular season and kept him out of postseason play. Cashman said that the Yankees should learn by the end of December if LeMahieu will avoid surgery.
Though the Yankees signed infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a one-year, $6 million contract last week, there is no guarantee that Kiner-Falefa will remain the preferred shortstop, the position where he made 131 starts in 2022 before being benched in the ALDS against the Guardians.
Kiner-Falefa was a 2020 Gold Glove Award winner at third base and could be used in a utility role, but a trade is also possible. Likewise, the Yankees may look to deal infielder Gleyber Torres, who was discussed in a deal that could have brought Marlins right-hander Pablo López to the Bronx at the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. The Yanks balked at including Peraza in that swap.
Torres, who turns 26 in December, acknowledged at season’s end that “I don’t know exactly [for] myself where we are next year.”
“Clearly, the infield is an area of strength for us, more so than probably any other aspect,” Cashman said. “It went from an area we were scrambling to find people for and now it’s turned into an area where we’ve got some really high-end young kids pushing their way up, saying they want it to be their turn now. We also have some high-end players sitting in those positions that are more than capable of saying, ‘Not yet.’”
Steinbrenner said that the final call about having Peraza, Volpe or both on the Opening Day roster would rest with Cashman and manager Aaron Boone. Steinbrenner said that he has spoken to some of the Yanks’ veterans, who are enthusiastic about giving younger players an opportunity, and it sounds like Steinbrenner is ready to cast his vote.
“Ultimately, it’s their decision, with my input,” Steinbrenner said of Cashman and Boone. “But I think you’re going to see them get a shot in Spring Training.”