Anthony Volpe: A real superstar in the making or an overhyped Yankee?

Yankees' shortstop Anthony Volpe has started his sophomore season with a bang.
Inna Zeyger
Friday April 19, 2024

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Anthony Volpe has taken Major League Baseball by storm. Relegated to the ninth spot in the batting order during his rookie season, the 22-year-old shortstop has undergone a remarkable transformation, solidifying himself as the leadoff hitter for his sophomore year.

Anthony Volpe’s early season performance has been nothing short of stellar. He’s racked up hits in 13 of his first 16 games, boasting a sizzling .373 batting average. His speed on the basepaths has also been a weapon, as evidenced by his six stolen bases already.

But his impact goes beyond traditional batting stats. Anthony Volpe’s advanced metrics are equally impressive. With a 1.4 fWAR (Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement), he trails only established superstars like Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve in this category among American League shortstops. Furthermore, Anthony Volpe has shown remarkable plate discipline, striking out only once in his last 28 plate appearances. He also leads the entire American League in pitches per plate appearance, averaging a staggering 4.54. These statistics were unimaginable for him just a few months ago, signifying a drastic improvement in his approach to the plate.

So, is Anthony Volpe on the cusp of superstardom? While his current performance puts him among baseball’s elite shortstops, only time will tell if he can sustain this level of play. He is viewed as better than legend Derek Jeter at a comparable age. However, one thing is certain: the sophomore has captured the attention of the entire league with his meteoric rise. Let’s delve into three key factors behind his captivating start to the season.

Anthony Volpe: From swing struggles to hitting prodigy

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Anthony Volpe’s transformation from a strikeout-prone rookie to a disciplined leadoff hitter has been one of the most captivating storylines in Major League Baseball this season. In 2023, His struggles with pitch selection manifested in a dismal .283 on-base percentage (second-lowest among qualified hitters) and a concerning 27.8% strikeout rate (13th-highest). Many, though optimistic about his future, weren’t prepared for his early-season breakout.

Fast forward to today, and Anthony Volpe has slashed his strikeout rate nearly in half, sitting at a remarkable 14.3%. This puts him among the elite company of players batting over .300 with a lower K%. Furthermore, he’s doubled his walk rate from 8.7% to a matching 14.3%, dramatically improving his on-base percentage – the key ingredient missing from his rookie campaign.

This turnaround stems from a targeted approach at the plate. By adjusting his swing to create a flatter bat path, Anthony Volpe has gained greater control over pitches in the upper zone, an area that plagued him previously. This simple tweak has unlocked the raw hitting talent the Yankees always envisioned, and perhaps even sooner than expected.

Rookie to runaway hitting maestro

Anthony Volpe practices at Minute Maid Park, Houston, on March 28, 2024, on the eve of the Yankees vs. Astros game.
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Anthony Volpe has exploded onto the scene, completely redefining his role and the Yankees’ lineup in the process. Just a few games into the season, his scorching performance has solidified him as a top offensive weapon, leading the Yankees with a blistering .373 batting average and a robust 1.006 OPS – the third-highest and 13th-highest marks in the entire league, respectively.

His rise has been particularly impressive considering Anthony Volpe’s newfound patience at the plate. He’s seamlessly embraced a more disciplined approach, complementing his impressive hitting skills. This newfound maturity has also translated into a more prominent role within the first-place Yankees.

Initially penciled in to bat sixth or seventh, injuries to DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres‘ struggles opened the door for Volpe to lead off. Tasked with setting the table for the likes of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge, Anthony Volpe has thrived in the spotlight. In his new role, he’s slashing an impressive .368 (7-for-29) with five walks and just one strikeout in just five games. Even more remarkable, he’s notched three-hit games three times already this season – a feat he only managed twice in 159 games during his rookie year.

Anthony Volpe’s rapid adjustments are all the more impressive considering his limited experience facing major league pitching and the challenging early-season weather conditions on the East Coast. His early-season tear echoes the performance of Robinson Canó in 2009, the last Yankee to maintain a batting average above .417 through the first 10 games.

The ability to make such significant changes early in his career, before even reaching 700 career plate appearances, showcases Anthony Volpe’s undeniable talent and exceptional potential for continued success. The Yankees have a bona fide star in the making, and baseball fans are witnessing the emergence of a potential future superstar.

A superstar in the making

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At just 23 (birthday approaching later this month), Anthony Volpe has already carved his name into baseball history. A Gold Glove winner and a member of the prestigious 20/20 club (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season), he boasts a resume that surpasses many established players. For comparison, Aaron Judge, at 23, was still climbing the minor league ranks, transitioning between Double-A and Triple-A. His explosive 52-homer Rookie of the Year campaign wouldn’t arrive until he was 25.

While Anthony Volpe’s overall performance in 2023 may not have been eye-catching, he did showcase flashes of brilliance, clubbing 21 home runs and swiping 24 bases. Even under the intense pressure of playing in New York as a rookie, Volpe displayed a remarkable ability to block out distractions – a trait that continues to serve him well this season.

Through his rookie year’s highs and lows, his demeanor remained unflappable. Now, Anthony Volpe is enjoying success typically reserved for seasoned All-Stars. This level of composure is a prized quality in Major League Baseball, which players struggle to develop. But Volpe seems to possess it naturally.

The maturity that has impressed the Yankees organization since Anthony Volpe was their top prospect is evident in his actions. His dedication in the offseason, which has translated into a stellar start this season, exemplifies this. With an early-season OPS of 1.154, Volpe currently ranks fifth all-time among Yankees players aged 22 or younger (with at least 40 plate appearances). The only names ahead of him? Baseball legends like Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, and Bobby Murcer.

Anthony Volpe’s performance places him in rarified air, even within the storied history of the Yankees. And for baseball fans, the best is yet to come. This young phenom’s peak is still on the horizon, promising years of excitement to follow.

Another Gold Glove?

While his bat fell silent on Wednesday, Anthony Volpe’s wizardry with the leather spoke volumes. As the Yankees clung to a tenuous 6-4 advantage over the relentless Blue Jays, the rookie shortstop conjured magic with one breathtaking defensive gem.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s scorching grounder up the middle seemed destined to prolong Toronto’s comeback bid. However, Volpe had other ideas, showcasing his preternatural range and athleticism. With one blink-and-you-missed-it sequence, he ranged into the hole, laid out fully extended, and with a flick of his wrists, unleashed a strike to first to extinguish the Jays’ late uprising.

“That was impressive,” said Aaron Judge, who had a good view from center field. “Right when he hit it, I’m thinking it’s probably coming to me, just get the ball in. He makes an incredible snag. I gotta stop doubting him with those plays. He’s been doing it all last year and to start this year. It was a pretty impressive way to end the game right there.”

Had Volpe’s heroics faltered, the runner at second would have pulled Toronto within one, prolonging the ninth-inning drama. Instead, the rookie’s jaw-dropping play not only sealed the victory but provided another tantalizing glimpse into his blossoming defensive brilliance, leaving Yankees Universe dreaming of the gems still to come from their rising star’s magical glove.

“He’s a Gold Glover for a reason,” catcher Jose Trevino said. “That was a hard-hit ball. Going to his left to make that kind of play, it was a really good play.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Anthony Volpe: A real superstar in the making or an overhyped Yankee?

  1. I have to admit Volpe has been a bit better defensively than I thought he’d be, but his arm strength concerns me.

    As for offensively, can we just let him play? It is taglines like this, is why Yankees prospects are never as high as they should be.

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