Anthony Volpe’s defensive excellence makes a resounding rebuttal of 2B speculations

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Rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe stands out as the best finding for the Yankees in that position in the post-Derek Jeter era. His recent showcase of defensive prowess, a memorable moment for his season highlights, at shortstop is a strong rebuttal of recent talks about moving him to second base.

On Saturday, the Yankees’ number 11 delivered a defensive performance that firmly established him as the heir to Jeter’s legacy. During the game against the Astros, Anthony Volpe ventured deep into the distant corners of the infield, skillfully backhanding a sharply hit ground ball. What unfolded next was a scene reminiscent of Jeter’s own playbook.

Anthony Volpe's defense and throw vs. the Astros on Sept 3, 2023, in Houston mirrors that of Derek Jeter.

Anthony Volpe’s best place is at shortstop

The Yankees’ nimble shortstop charged a few paces to his right, fielding a bouncing grounder hit by the Astros’ Mauricio Dubon with precision. Anthony Volpe then seamlessly executed the jump throw he had been refining for years. When asked about the number of times he had practiced this specific move, he couldn’t help but chuckle.

While it’s important not to overly emphasize a single play in a lengthy baseball season, Anthony Volpe’s exceptional fifth-inning play on Saturday at Minute Maid Park in Houston provides an opportunity to assess the 22-year-old’s performance in the field this season.

Before Spring Training, there were numerous doubts about Anthony Volpe’s defensive abilities, particularly concerning his arm strength for the shortstop position. However, his performance has effectively silenced those concerns.

Manager Aaron Boone expressed his belief that he was right in the middle of the Gold Glove conversation. Boone’s assertion finds some backing in The Fielding Bible, which tallied Anthony Volpe with 15 total runs saved (in 1,136 2/3 innings) leading into Sunday’s series finale. According to their metrics, only the Rays’ Wander Franco had more with 17 total runs saved in 948 innings.

However, Statcast’s evaluation is somewhat less enthusiastic. It attributes three Runs Prevented and four Outs Above Average (OAA) to Volpe, placing him 13th among MLB shortstops in both categories. According to Baseball Savant’s measure called “Outs Above Average,” which looks at how well defenders cover their area, Anthony Volpe’s performance ranked in the middle. He had three OAA, which put him in a tie for the 13th spot among all shortstops.

Anthony Volpe, Rizzo, Aaron Judge, and Cortes celebrates after the rookie shortstop Volpe drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in against the Orioles on May 23, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

Nonetheless, Anthony Volpe has proven to be dependable, boasting a .975 fielding percentage with 12 errors while also making significant contributions at the plate. He achieved the distinction of becoming the first Yankees rookie to achieve 20 homers and 20 stolen bases.

Yankees say no to speculations about Anthony Volpe’s 2B move

As he progressed through the minor leagues and entered his first season with the Yankees, there were uncertainties about whether Anthony Volpe would continue to play shortstop in the future. The 22-year-old appears to have addressed those questions even before his first year as a rookie is over.

According to Boone, Anthony Volpe could excel as a second baseman. But he highlighted the rookie’s exceptional performance as a shortstop, suggesting that he was a strong contender for a Gold Glove award in that position. Boone emphasized that when a player performs at such a high level in a specific position, like shortstop, it’s likely they will continue in that role.

Certainly, if Anthony Volpe is going to continue playing as a shortstop in the future, it makes us wonder where Oswald Peraza would fit into the Yankees’ plans. Known for his strong defensive skills as a shortstop, Peraza has mainly played at Triple-A this year. However, he’s currently getting a chance to play at third base for the Yankees during the last month of the season.

Anthony Volpe during the game between the Yankees vs Tigers, on August 31
AP

Although Anthony Volpe has faced some challenges with his hitting, managing to hit 18 home runs, he has shown great skill in the field. His glove work is consistent, and he demonstrates strong instincts on the field.

Boone admitted that he had initial thoughts about Anthony Volpe’s ability to play shortstop, and he acknowledged being particularly impressed with Volpe’s performance in that position. He expressed surprise at how well Volpe has played at shortstop, especially at this early stage. According to Boone, Anthony Volpe has excelled in various aspects of the position, showing strong skills in handling routine plays and mastering the nuances of the position.

What Boone finds most impressive about Anthony Volpe’s defense is that he has succeeded without possessing the strongest arm. Some scouts initially thought that Volpe might end up playing second base due to his arm strength. However, his high baseball intelligence and other skills have compensated for this perceived limitation.

Anthony Volpe shows exceptional defensive display against the Royals on July 21, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
NYY

The Yankees manager is impressed with how Anthony Volpe approaches his position with quickness and a lot of energy, all while staying in command. This is why, according to Boone, the rookie has excelled at handling routine plays effectively and plays the game at a high speed and with a lot of passion covering a wide area on the field and uses his footwork skillfully to adjust angles. This helps him handle tough plays, even though he doesn’t rely solely on having a strong throwing arm.

With the Yankees focusing on the future, including the promotions of prospects such as Jasson Dominguez and Austin Wells, Anthony Volpe finds himself among the more experienced players in this emerging group. In Saturday’s victory in Houston, the Yankees fielded six players aged 25 or younger, a feat not seen since September 11, 1969, when Thurman Munson and five others started in a game against Washington.

Anthony Volpe admitted he was excited and feeling like he was living through them to some extent.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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