Stop me if you've heard this one before — the Yankees using their first-round draft pick on a New Jersey-born shortstop out of high school who’s a lifelong Yankees fan. Although Anthony Volpe has a similar Yankees origin story to Derek Jeter, that’s about where the similarities end. Although Volpe has a bright future ahead of him, no one should be compared to a Hall of Famer at age 19.
Volpe played in 34 games for Pulaski after being drafted in 2019, and encountered some peaks and valleys. His defensive instincts, sound batter’s eye and plus baserunning were evident in his brief sample size, but so was his lack of power. A bout with mononucleosis abbreviated his pro debut, and of course his 2020 never took off due to the canceled minor league season. We haven’t seen Volpe play in awhile and he’s still just a 19-years-old kid, but the Yankees’ need for a sure-handed and speedy shortstop has only grown as Gleyber Torres has struggled acclimating to the position.
Volpe will likely start the 2021 season with Low-A Tampa, where he will play shortstop and the Yankees will look for growth.
2019 Stats (Rookie-Level Pulaski): 150 PA, .215/.349/.355, 2 HR, 19 Runs, 11 RBI, 6 SB, 25.3 K%, 15.3 BB%, 102 wRC+
Prospect Ranking (Yankees System/MLB Overall): 11 (MLB.com), 14 (FanGraphs)
Volpe’s greatest trait is his fielding. Given the Yankees’ struggles to find a capable defensive shortstop, this gives Volpe a chance to make it to the big club if he can hit. His scouting reports indicate an average arm and range, but he has a quick release, soft hands, solid footwork and a high baseball IQ. FanGraphs referred to Volpe as “the steadiest infield defender among high schoolers in the 2019 Draft.”
Although he posted a strikeout rate over 25 percent in his brief Rookie League cameo, Volpe is said to possess solid contact skills. He projects more as a gap-to-gap hitter than a 20-home run guy, due in part to his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame and compact swing. The fact that Volpe has an advanced batter’s eye at such a young age and runs the bases well are his best offensive assets.
Volpe is projected to be Major League-ready by 2023 or 2024 — by then, DJ LeMahieu will be halfway through his contract and could be ready for a full-time move to first or third base. Unless there’s dramatic defensive improvement from Torres, he’d probably be at second base by that point as well. Long story short – there’s an opportunity to be had at shortstop for the Yankees, and between Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Alexander Vargas, and Josh Smith, the team has no shortage of internal options. Three of these players are younger than 21, and the oldest, Smith, is still just 23. Volpe will have some internal competition if he’s going to be the Yankees’ long-term answer at shortstop, but a little pressure could go a long way in weeding out the best of these prospects.
For the price the Yankees paid for Volpe (a first round pick and a $2.7 million signing bonus), they’re likely hoping that he’s the one. As long as his bat comes around, his defensive acumen gives him as a good a chance as any prospect in the system. He’s some time away from suiting up in pinstripes, but Volpe’s potential is high.