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Wizard of Oz: Peraza making the most of big league shot

First Yankees-era Renegade to play for the Bronx Bombers soaking in dream
Oswald Peraza rounds the bases after homering against the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2021. (Anthony Sorbellini)
September 29, 2022

Bronx, N.Y. – A feeling of anxiety was present as Oswald Peraza dug into the right-handed batter’s box at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, September 7. Facing Minnesota Twins right-hander Louie Varland in game one of a doubleheader with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the third,

Bronx, N.Y. – A feeling of anxiety was present as Oswald Peraza dug into the right-handed batter’s box at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, September 7. Facing Minnesota Twins right-hander Louie Varland in game one of a doubleheader with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the third, Peraza was 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in his first three big league games.

He watched the first pitch clip the outside corner for a strike, then took the second inside for a ball. Varland’s next pitch was an 84 mile per hour changeup on the outer half. Although he was a little out in front, Peraza swung and barreled the ball, sending a screaming line drive down to the left field corner. Hustling out of the box, he reached second base in just 8.04 seconds, leaving Twins left fielder Jake Cave’s throw with no chance to get him at second.

Peraza collected not only his first hit in that game, but his first three MLB hits, finishing 3-for-5 as the Yankees outlasted the Twins 5-4 in 12 innings. It kicked off a stretch where he hit .375/.500/.500 over five games.

“I was so antsy to get the first one, you know?” said Peraza in an interview at Yankee Stadium in September. “But it was great. It was beautiful because my first hit was a double, and my family was here, so they were able to witness that. It’s like the story just got started.”

A breakout season

While the big league story got started for Peraza this year, the 22-year-old took off on his fast climb to the Major Leagues in 2021 at Dutchess Stadium. After hitting .263/.332/.340 in 65 games between Short-Season A Staten Island and Single-A Charleston in 2019 and missing the entire 2020 season due to the cancelation of the Minor League season, Peraza began 2021 with the Hudson Valley Renegades.

On a star-studded roster that featured the likes of Ezequiel Duran, Josh Breaux and Luis Medina, Peraza quickly established himself as one of the blue chip prospects on the first Renegades team of the Yankees affiliation. He made his mark with a four-hit game on May 9 at Jersey Shore and simply didn’t stop hitting.

Peraza homered in four straight games on the first homestand of the year, including a walk-off home run on May 13 off Kade Strowd of Aberdeen, followed by a two-homer performance the next night. At one point, he hit home runs in three straight at-bats, drawing national attention. His performance helped him be named High-A East Player of the Month for May.

Despite playing only 28 games with the Gades before a June promotion to Double-A Somerset, he left an indelible mark on the Hudson Valley, batting .306/.386/.532 in 127 plate appearances. His contributions early helped the team finish with the best record in the High-A East North Division.

“He’s worked so much,” 2021 Renegades manager Dan Fiorito told MLB.com last year. “At the end of the day when you watch him, the different way he can impact the game in every aspect has been so impressive. I think all the potential that he has, he’s got the potential to be a great big league shortstop. It’s been special to watch him.”

He continued his breakout 2021 with Somerset, batting .295 with 12 home runs in 79 games before a late-season promotion to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In total, he hit .297/.356/.477 with 26 doubles, 18 home runs and stole 38 bases in 115 games across three levels of the minor leagues.

Continuing the work

Peraza competed for a spot on the Yankees roster in spring training, but ultimately didn’t make the final cut, being sent to Triple-A in favor of more veteran players. The Yankees wanted him to be in a position to play every day and improve, which is what Peraza was able to do in Scranton.

However, he struggled mightily to start the season, and on June 11, was hitting just .192/.267/.316 with only five home runs.

But then, something clicked.

He collected three hits that night against Syracuse, then two more the next night, and two more in each of his next two games. Peraza caught fire and tore off an 11-game hitting streak, during which he had seven multi-hit games and four home runs. For the rest of his time in Triple-A, Peraza hit .316/.382/.560 with 14 home runs.

That resilience through struggles is part of what Peraza believes to be the biggest difference for him now – his maturity as a player.

“You start thinking about different opportunities, picking up on the little things that help you mature as a player,” said Peraza. “Having players with much more experience in the clubhouse – either because that’s where they are at the moment or they’re doing a rehab assignment down there – having opportunities to speak to those guys and learn from them, I think basically helped me mature as a player.”

Three teammates he singled out for their impact on him this year were Jose Peraza, Ender Inciarte and Ronald Guzman. Those three combined for 1,732 career big league games, with Inciarte winning three Gold Gloves and being named a National League All-Star.

Oswald Peraza dazzled Dutchess Stadium fans with his glove as well as his bat. Anthony Sorbellini

“It’s just a wealth of knowledge [that they had],” Peraza said. “I was very fortunate to have them there with me in Triple-A and to be able to pick things up from them.”

As his bat heated up throughout the season, so did the pleas of Yankees fans on social media to promote him to the major leagues, especially as Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Marwin Gonzalez struggled in the Bronx. Every time a Peraza highlight was shared on social media, there was an inevitable “call him up” comment.

Fans finally got their wish on Sept. 1, when Peraza was removed from game one of a doubleheader with the Syracuse Mets and told my Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Doug Davis that he was going to the majors.

“You’re short for words when you hear that you’re finally going to the big leagues and you might have an opportunity to play short for the Yankees,” Peraza said. “You think about the path and all the different levels to get here. I’ve been playing this sport since I was a little kid. It’s very exciting.

“It’s like a dream you have that’s finally coming true. It was a beautiful experience. Something that I will never forget.”