What makes Anthony Volpe so good at stealing bases

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Amid a galaxy of veterans, Anthony Volpe is a shining star and a source of a lot of excitement for those on the roster and Yankee fans. He has brought some youth and energy to the Yankees in a short amount of time.

People are watching the 21-year-old shortstop for the Yankees to see how he does now that he has a starting job.

Anthony Volpe is fast, quick

If fans like to describe Anthony Volpe’s performance in one word, it should be “quickly.”

On Opening Day, the Yankees’ top prospect, Anthony Volpe, made his major league debut and became the fifth player in the Modern Era (since 1901) and the first since Billy Hamilton a decade ago to steal a base in each of his first three career games.

In his first four games, the young shortstop stole three bases. Anthony Volpe was impressive all over the field, but perhaps most so on the bases.

Anthony Volpe is quick, but he’s not as fast as a speed demon. He has an advantage because he is good at reading pitchers and knows how to run the bases well in the age of the pitch clock.

Anthony Volpe is ready to steal a base against the Giants at Yankee Stadium on April 2, 2023.

He stole 50 bases between Double-A and Triple-A last season, which was before the pitch timer was used in the major leagues.

“It’s one of the things he’s excellent at. He’s an elite base runner,” manager Aaron Boone said recently. “He’s not a burner — he’s got good speed — but he’s just a special base runner. Does his homework, stays under control, and then does run well.

“He’s the real deal on the basepaths.”

The 21-year-old has a different strategy. Anthony Volpe stays close to the bag until he thinks the pitcher is going to throw home.

Then he takes a big slide step toward the next base, and as the pitcher throws to the plate, he uses the momentum to start running full speed.

Speed is his hallmark

Last season, Anthony Volpe stole 50 of 57 bases, which he said was because of the way the Yankees coach.

“It’s just a technique-based thing,” Anthony Volpe said before the Yankees faced the Phillies. “I’m not the fastest guy in the world. But just to kind of make the math work on the pitcher’s delivery and catcher’s release — I’m trying to pick my spots to give myself the best opportunity to be safe at second.”

Anthony Volpe’s aggressiveness helps the Yankees base runner get closer to scoring, which is the most obvious benefit. However, there are other benefits as well.

Anthony Volpe with Giancarlo Stanton
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In their win over the Giants, San Francisco’s Sean Hjelle was worried about Anthony Volpe being on first base. He then threw a wild pitch that moved Volpe to second.

When Anthony Volpe has been on first, the pitcher’s focus has not been on the batter as much as it should have been.

“It seems like he’s one of those guys that every time he gets on base, he’s looking to make something happen, so you can kind of feel it,” said Yankees reliever Ron Marinaccio, who is familiar with pesky base runners. “When he gets on base, I’m sure the pitcher can feel it. He’s taking a little bit of the focus off of the batter, and he’s playing a role right there.”

Anthony Volpe’s presence helps big hitters

Boone has put Anthony Volpe in the ninth spot in the lineup not only to ease the pressure on the rookie but also to make the New Jersey native another leadoff hitter.

If Volpe’s legs can distract opposing pitchers, who should be focused on DJ LeMahieu or Aaron Judge, the pitcher might miss his target.

“Whether [Volpe’s presence] results in gaining a base in a stolen base or maybe just a little bit of attention not poured into the pitch … which hopefully lends itself to [the pitcher] potentially making more mistakes,” Boone said. “Hopefully all that adds up to something that is good for us.”

Anthony Volpe is the biggest threat the Yankees have ever faced. Rickey Henderson was the last Yankee to steal 50 bases, and he nearly doubled that number (93) in 1988.

Brett Gardner, who stole 49 bases in 2011, was the last Yankee to steal 40 bases.

MLB wants games to have more action, so the new rules and bigger bases make it easier to run. The Yankees stole six bases in their first four games, which was the most stolen bases in the team’s first four games since 1990.

Anthony Volpe is in the Yankees Opening Day lineup, March 30, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
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Anthony Volpe said that how aggressive he is on the bases will depend on the situation. He does not have a goal for how many steals he wants to get by the end of the season.

“I think if the opportunity presents itself, I want to try and take advantage,” Volpe said. “I think if I just stay calm, stay patient, and not push the envelope too much … over the course of a long season, I can take advantage.”

Anthony Volpe is to stay long term

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com did a survey over Anthony Volpe vs. Jordan Walker, a 20-year-old outfielder who debuted with the Cardinals this season. The participants were 20 front-office executives. A whopping 75% of them voted for Volpe as the best of the two.

According to Feinsand, an American League executive said:

“My knee-jerk reaction was Volpe by a longshot, just because of the defensive value. However, with what Walker has produced in the Minors and the fact that he’s more than a full year younger, it makes me think it’s really close. I want to say Walker because the Volpe/Yankees hype is probably too much, but at the end of the day, I’ll bet on the premium defensive position and hit over power in Volpe.”

At the start of camp, Anthony Volpe was a long shot to win the shortstop job. He beat out rookie Oswald Peraza and last year’s starter Isiah Kiner-Falefa in a race that wasn’t close.

By the second week of March, when Kiner-Falefa stopped playing shortstop to prepare for a super-utility role, it came down to Anthony Volpe vs. Oswald Peraza. From there, it was clear that Volpe would win.

Both Volpe and Peraza were good at shortstop though the former proved himself to be a better power hitter in the spring camp. Anthony Volpe Volpe hit .314 in 17 games. He had 6 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, 5 RBI, 8 walks, 5 steals, and an OPS of 1.064.

In his first regular season, he has scored two runs in 11 at-bats so far in six games. He has two hits, four walks, and three strikeouts.

Aaron Judge, Stanton, and Anthony Volpe pose for a photograph during the Yankees 2023 spring training game at Tampa, FL.

Volpe adjusting to MLB shortstop demands

“I’ve seen him the last couple of years [in the minors] and I knew he had the tools and ability to be a big-league shortstop,’’ said infield coach Travis Chapman, who was the one to train with Volpe soon after he joins the Yankees. “I think he showed it in the minors and thus far here [with the Yankees].”

When asked if he thought the Yankees would keep Anthony Volpe at shortstop in the long run, Chapman said, “You’d better believe it. We’ve been preparing for that for the last several years and nothing has changed.”

After a play in which Anthony Volpe attempted to turn a double play by throwing underhand to second, manager Aaron Boone remarked that the 21-year-old is still getting used to the tempo of major league baseball.

Anthony Volpe’s backhand is something that has been worked on by his coaches throughout his professional career.

“He used to come around [the ball] quite a bit, but we wanted him to be more direct to the ball,’’ Chapman said. “He’s elite at that part of the game now and can go straight there.’’

Anthony Volpe, who will be 22 in a month, is bound to encounter some difficulties in the beginning. After a 2-for-6 start, he has gone hitless in his last 11 at-bats while striking out four times.

“He keeps working hard,’’ Chapman said. “This is not easy. He’s still only a few games in, but you can tell he’s enjoying it. He’s refreshing to be around and he’s already built trust in the coaches and players.”

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