Oswald Peraza’s Power Grows Despite Lost Season
The sound coming off Oswald Peraza’s bat had already widened the eyes of scouts, who couldn’t believe he was hitting the ball so hard for someone so young.
And now that it’s happening with greater frequency, the Yankees are even more excited in their hope that he could man shortstop in the Bronx in the not-so-distant future. In fact, don’t even call it hope.
“We believe he could do that,” Yankees hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson said.
The 20-year-old Peraza, who signed out of Venezuela in 2016, didn’t let the lost minor league season derail his development. He has worked steadily to improve his most impressive skill—his pop.
“A big focus for him has just been keeping the ball off the ground and seeing as many breaking balls as possible,” Lawson said of Peraza, whose exit velocity has touched 110 mph.
That’s special since it’s approximately the average maximum exit velo among major leaguers.
The Yankees added Peraza to the 40-man roster in November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft. That's a huge vote of confidence for a player who hasn’t played above Low-A Charleston, where he hit .273/.348/.333 with two home runs in 46 games in 2019.
Yet the Yankees were comfortable making the move because they tracked his work while he stayed in Orlando when spring training shut down in March due to the coronavirus. All Venezuelan players were stranded in the U.S. until the offseason when the country opened its borders.
“He’s a guy who has exceptional bat-to-ball skills,” said Lawson, who lauded Peraza’s “low maintenance, easy-to-deal-with” personality.
Peraza also played six games in the Venezuelan League this winter, going 4-for-16 with a double, four walks and six strikeouts. The average age in the league was almost 28 years old.
“He has the makings of a big leaguer—and a big leaguer in New York, which in my opinion is a harder thing to be,” Lawson said.
The Yankees’ organizational hitting philosophy is rooted in a simple mantra: “Hit strikes hard.”
“You could put it on a T-shirt,” Lawson said.
Easy enough, right? But there's more to it than that.
“When we swing at strikes, we make more consistent contact,” Lawson said. “When we make more consistent contact, we hit the ball harder. And when we hit the ball harder, we want it to go over the infield.”
Lawson called it the “North Star” for his hitters.
“They’ve got a lot of stuff going on in their lives,” he said. “A lot of distractions. But ‘hit strikes hard’ is a very simple, memorable phrase that can at least be a guiding force.”