June 30—Many years ago, when we discussed a Philadelphia Phillies prospect struggling in his first month in Triple-A after a big season with Double-A, legendary Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons manager Marc Bombard offered some sage baseball wisdom.
The jump from Double-A to Triple-A, he said, is the toughest in professional baseball.
His reasoning was correct. Double-A is a prospect league, filled with young players. Triple-A is the first chance many of them get to test themselves against big league veterans, players who know how to make adjustments.
The year was 2002 and the player was 21-year-old pitcher Brett Myers, the 12th overall pick in the 1999 draft. Myers started 19 games with the Red Barons before being recalled by the Phillies that summer. He advanced to a record of 97-96 and 40 saves in 12 seasons in the major leagues.
That conversation has been on my mind over the past few weeks as we approached the Major League Baseball trading deadline. Yankees steamrolling into the postseason with a top-heavy offense that won’t be an excuse for not crossing the finish line.
So in the coming weeks, the Yankees should take a more focused look at whether Oswald Peraza can give their lineup what it needs in the short term, and spare them some aggravation and a few prospects on the trading bloc.
This is the hair on the head of what looks like the best Yankees team since 2009. But there are concerns, especially after a weekend series slog against AL West leading Houston, in which Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton went 6 for 32 with six runs, four home runs and nine RBI’s, while the rest of the team hit 9 for 90 with two home runs and five RBI’s.
The Yankees are 14-15 in games in which they have scored three runs or less — nine of those losses come when they have allowed three runs or less. So the Yankees are a few runs away from more 62-13 than 55-20 here and there. Those few runs will be crucial, perhaps championship-determining, in October.
Where do the Yankees find those runs? There are three points of different levels of concern:
* Corner outfield, where Joey Gallo has a .609 OPS and only 31 hits in 62 games.
* Catcher, where? Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka were excellent defensively. But Higashioka slurps a meek .315, and while Trevino has a .771 OPS, he’s hit .634 OPS over the past four years. He hasn’t been a .770 OPS producer since A-ball.
*Short stop, where Isiah Kiner-Falefa holds a .316 slugging percentage and falls slightly short of his Gold Glove reputation.
The Yanks seem destined to leave Gallo, and they’ll be reluctant to mess with the defensive success behind the plate. So if they’re going to be an attack that’s really seven consistent threats deep, they’ll need more pop at shortstop than Kiner-Falefa can provide.
The A’s would definitely say goodbye to Elvis Andrus, and the Phillies could also be forced to send Didi Gregorius out of town, if the Yankees wanted to go with a veteran former All-Star a few years after their best seasons. But Peraza is their most intriguing and cost-effective option.
Sure, he only gets .239 with a .708 OPS with the RailRiders. But Peraza just turned 22 and is the perfect example of how big the jump is for young players just getting wet in Triple-A.
Including eight last season, Peraza hit .210 with a .611 OPS in his first 31 Triple-A games. In his last 33, he hit .269 with a .791 OPS. In his last 10 games, his OPS is 1,248.
Oswald Peraza .’s Triple-A Progress
Games BA/OPB/SLG Runs Doubles Home Runs RBIs Stolen Bases
First 31 .210/.292/.319 12 4 3 9 9
Last 33 .269/.329/.462 17 5 7 16 8
Last 10 .439/.467/.781 9 2 4 8 4
Does that make him ready for a big league promotion? It’s not a slam dunk. But there have been plenty of big prospects who came to Triple-A, started slowly and never adjusted.
Peraza has adapted quite quickly in the general scope of baseball development. Is it enough development to be called quickly? Is he a more productive top-level attacking player than Kiner-Falefa right now? The Yankees don’t seem too eager to change anything that works, but championship teams haven’t been the ones who have had regular season success in recent years.
The Yankees will have to adjust this roster, and in some ways they will have to spend something significant in terms of money and prospects to make sure they don’t miss a golden opportunity to break their longest stretch without a championship since 1996.
Meanwhile, Peraza also gives them something they desperately need. A legit opportunity to improve a champion candidate from the inside out. Better to call sooner than later.
DONNIE COLLINS is a sports columnist for The Times-Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @DonnieCollinsTT.
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