At less than a million, Anthony Volpe leaves a billion behind

Anthony Volpe with Jhony Brito at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees took a bold step by entrusting Anthony Volpe with the role of their Opening Day shortstop. Fast forward nearly six months and he’s still firmly holding that position, with Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays marking his 151st game played – more than any other player in Yankees uniform this season.

Among major-league shortstops, only the Mets’ Francisco Lindor shares Anthony Volpe’s ironman status. This achievement is noteworthy for a 22-year-old rookie, especially considering his previous high in games played was 132, spread across two levels just a year ago.

However, when you examine what Anthony Volpe has accomplished during this extensive workload, it’s a mixed bag, which is typical for a rookie thrust into one of the most high-profile roles in sports. His 417-foot home run on Sunday marked his 21st homer this season, tying him for the sixth-most by a rookie in franchise history and the seventh-most by a Yankee before turning 23.

To provide some context, the Yankees have a long and storied history, and some of the names on those lists include legendary figures like Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and Aaron Judge.

But the Yankees are impressed by Anthony Volpe’s other skills. For instance, Anthony Volpe, who has also recorded 24 stolen bases, is one of just four shortstops this season to join the exclusive 20-20 club, along with Bobby Witt Jr. (29 HRs, 48 SBs), Lindor (26, 27), and Trea Turner (26, 27).

Anthony Volpe overrides limitations to shine

New York Yankees' rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe hit a 3-run HR against Boston at Yankee Stadium on Aug 20, 2023.

Anthony Volpe’s struggles at the plate are limiting his opportunities to wreak havoc on the basepaths. On Tuesday, he had a hitless 0-for-3 performance, causing his on-base percentage to plummet to .286. This tied him with Daulton Varsho of the Blue Jays, making him second-worst in the majors in this regard, only outperforming Javy Baez (.265) among the 136 qualified players. When you factor in batting average, Anthony Volpe’s .210 mark ranks as the fourth-worst, with Kyle Schwarber’s .197 being the lowest (though it’s important to note Schwarber has hit 45 homers).

This situation might not be unusual for a rookie who is just old enough to legally enjoy a beer. However, it’s worth questioning whether Anthony Volpe’s aggressive launch-angle swing, a technique honed in the Yankees’ minor-league system, is detracting from his ability to make more consistent contact instead of solely aiming for home runs. His 27.5% strikeout rate ranks 17th highest in the majors, though his 50 walks fall somewhere in the middle. While Anthony Volpe’s uppercut swing is often compared to Dustin Pedroia’s, the former Red Sox MVP second baseman’s career high in homers was 21 (achieved once), along with a lifetime .299 batting average and a .365 on-base percentage.

Considering Anthony Volpe’s speed and nimble approach to stealing bases, it would seem more beneficial to aim for numbers closer to Pedroia’s later career statistics, if that’s a feasible goal. When examining his minor-league track record, Anthony Volpe appears to possess the potential to become that type of hitter.

At $720K, Anthony Volpe betters shortstops worth $1.3B

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Beyond the statistics, it’s these qualities that make Anthony Volpe a reliable candidate to overcome any challenges he faces. If there’s a way to find a solution, he’ll relentlessly work his way towards it.

Boone expressed his belief that Anthony Volpe would be a significant contributor to their team’s future for an extended period. He described him as highly professional, intelligent, and dependable, emphasizing that he was someone on whom they could place a great deal of trust and rely upon.

Most home runs by a Yankees rookie
SLNameYearHome Runs
1.Aaron Judge201752
2.Joe DiMaggio193629
3.Miguel Andujar201827
4.Joe Gordon193825
5.Gleyber Torres201824
6. (tie)Kevin Maas199021
Anthony Volpe202321*

In his debut season, players often face a steep learning curve, but this young shortstop has successfully fulfilled his role both at the plate and in the outfield. As a result, the 22-year-old has not only found his place in the Yankees’ clubhouse but has also surpassed the likes of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Jeremy Pena, outshining stars with a combined value of over $1.3 billion.

Anthony Volpe has had a remarkable season. Despite signing with the Yankees on a modest $720k contract, his contributions have exceeded those of players earning millions this season. While he looks to continue improving in the future, given his rookie season, the young talent has already made a significant impact.

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.

So far this season, he boasts a batting average of .211, along with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs. These numbers place him ahead of players like Dansby Swanson and Carlos Correa on the home run charts. Furthermore, Anthony Volpe has proven himself as a standout in the outfield as well. According to CBS sports, he has logged the most innings as a shortstop and leads the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) charts, surpassing Francisco Lindor, Jeremy Pena, and others.

Considering that these players collectively hold contracts valued at approximately $1.3 billion, Anthony Volpe’s presence and superior statistics elevate him to a different league. This has understandably garnered significant attention, with even former Yankee captain Derek Jeter, one of the greatest shortstops in the game’s history, offering praise for Anthony Volpe. Jeter’s endorsement further underscores the young player’s exceptional talent, much like when he acknowledged Anthony Volpe’s recent catch on Old Timers’ Day.

Yankees are bullish on Anthony Volpe

Manager Aaron Boone said before Tuesday night’s game that he hoped it would go hand-in-hand as the player gets better and learns. He believed that the player should be able to hit for power and expressed optimism that the next step would involve the player achieving an on-base percentage of over 30%. Boone also mentioned that if the player becomes really proficient at it, they could have a .350 on-base percentage. He viewed these as achievable milestones for Anthony Volpe within their career and believed that the player could develop into the type of player he envisioned, all without necessarily sacrificing power.

When asked if Anthony Volpe perhaps swung too hard, Boone responded by saying, “He’s 22 years old,” and added that he believed there was more potential in his swing.

That’s an accurate assessment. Anthony Volpe is diligently navigating the learning curve and has excelled in unexpected ways, potentially surpassing the Yankees’ initial expectations when they entrusted him with the role. Despite lacking a cannon arm, Anthony Volpe has entered discussions for the Gold Glove, boasting the highest defensive WAR (2.3) among American League shortstops, as reported by Baseball-Reference.com. Only five players rank higher, with four tied at 2.5, including the Cubs’ Dansby Swanson, who is the lone other shortstop in this category. However, on Tuesday, Anthony Volpe had a mishap, mishandling a grounder in the ninth inning, resulting in his 16th error, the fourth-highest total in the majors. This statistic is likely to diminish his chances of earning the Gold Glove.

Nevertheless, Anthony Volpe’s defensive skills have left a strong impression on Derek Jeter, the Hall of Famer, who also commended Volpe’s unwavering determination – a quality Jeter knows firsthand is essential for success in the demanding environment of the Bronx.

Derek Jeter with Anthony Volpe at Yankee Stadium during the Yankees Old-Timers Day on September 09, 2023.
NYY

Earlier this month, Jeter commented on the player’s performance, noting that the most striking aspect was his ability to remain unaffected by fluctuations in his performance, whether it was within a single game, over the course of a week, or even a month. Jeter observed that this quality demonstrated a high level of maturity on the player’s part. He expressed confidence in Anthony Volpe’s future improvement, attributing it to gaining experience. Jeter acknowledged the challenges of playing in New York as a young athlete with consistently high expectations but emphasized that the player’s demeanor and how he carried himself were the standout qualities.

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