Looking Back at Anthony Volpe’s First Few Weeks in the Majors

Top prospect Anthony Volpe made the Yankees' Opening Day roster, and now he is experiencing the highs and lows of his first MLB season.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 01: Anthony Volpe #11 of the New York Yankees runs to first after hitting a single during the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium on April 01, 2023 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Heading into the 2023 season, the New York Yankees had a battle brewing at shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the club’s primary shortstop last year after he was acquired from the Minnesota Twins during the previous offseason, had the most experience of the competitors, while prospects Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe were also in the mix for the job. Peraza joined the Yankees as a September callup last season and put up solid numbers, going 15-for-49 (.306) with a 139 OPS+.

Rounding out the group was Volpe, the Yankees’ top prospect heading into the year. A product of Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey, the infielder was New York’s first-round pick back in 2019 (30th overall), and he was looking to make the jump to the big leagues with just 89 at-bats under his belt at the Triple-A level.

This spring, Volpe impressed many within the Yankees organization, slashing .309/.415/.618 with three home runs and a 1.033 OPS while posting a clean 1.000 fielding percentage at shortstop through 87 innings.

Volpe Cracks the Opening Day Roster

It helps to have the 2022 AL MVP on your side, and Aaron Judge endorsed Volpe for a spot on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster: “I think [Volpe has] all the makeup tools. He checks a lot of boxes — defensively, offensively… You should be up helping the New York Yankees. It doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 41. If you’re the best guy for the job, you should be playing.”

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When the dust settled, it was the 21-year-old who was victorious, with the club using Kiner-Falefa in more of a utility role while Peraza started the year at Triple-A (he would soon be promoted himself following Giancarlo Stanton’s hamstring injury). With Volpe penciled in as the Yankees shortstop to start the season (and for the foreseeable future), the New Jersey product also received a message of support from legend Derek Jeter.

Volpe and His Role

This was a big deal for Volpe: he was going to be starting for the Bronx Bombers and taking the reins at shortstop. Fast forward to the end of April, and the righty batter has seen his fair share of growing pains but continues to hold his own with one of the most polarizing franchises in MLB history.

At the plate, he currently owns a .188/.317/.319 slash line with four extra-base hits, including two home runs. Because of his plus speed, Volpe has started a handful of games in the leadoff spot (and the nine-hole, sometimes considered the second leadoff spot), and he has already stolen eight bases this year without being caught once. His Baseball Savant sliders are sitting on the wrong side for most hitting statistics (he ranks in the 20th percentile or lower in five different categories), but he is drawing walks at a high clip, with 13 to start the year. The one area where he is struggling most is with strikeouts; he currently has a 30.5% strikeout rate. He has also had particular difficulty against offspeed pitches such as changeups (.060 xBA) and curveballs (.076 xBA).

Defensively, Volpe has amassed a .973 fielding percentage with two errors, including a costly misplay against the Blue Jays this past weekend that helped Toronto extend the inning and rally to win the game. Overall, however, he has been great defensively, as demonstrated by his 4 DRS and 2 OAA. He has also helped convert eight double plays on the year.

Looking Ahead

While his bat has been a bit outmatched at times, there is no denying that Volpe’s presence in the lineup can be a real game-changer on both sides of the ball.

When he is on base, he is a base-stealing threat who can really turn the tide for the Yankees and get in scoring position for the top of the lineup. As well, his bat does have lots of raw power, as evidenced by his 61 extra-base hits last season in the minor leagues. He just needs to put the ball in play more often. He has also proven he can handle shortstop and make the routine plays required at the position; his athleticism and speed are on display on a daily basis.

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If Yankees fans were looking for a homegrown player to root for over the next six to seven years, they have found a good one in Anthony Volpe.