New York Yankees’ prospect Anthony Volpe can, at this point, be considered a consensus top-ten prospect in baseball. He was ranked fifth by MLB Pipeline, fourth by CBS Sports, tenth by The Athletic’s Keith Law, and seventh by Baseball Prospectus. Even though Baseball America had him 14th, his place among the very best young talents is firm.
Volpe, who had a .820 OPS and a 122 wRC+ in 497 Double-A plate appearances before playing 22 games in Scranton (.718 OPS, 91 wRC+), showed last season that he will struggle from time to time, but has enough skill, work ethic and determination to make adjustments and turn around his own destiny. After a sluggish start at Somerset, he had a .910 OPS in his final 72 games there.
Between the two stops, the Yanks’ prized young shortstop hit 21 home runs and stole a whopping 50 bases, becoming the first minor leaguer to reach those numbers since Andruw Jones in the mid-1990s.
Now, the question is: will he have a role on the 2023 Yankees? The answer will depend entirely on himself and whether he can dominate in spring training or at Triple-A to open the year. Right now, the team probably prioritizes Oswald Peraza and perhaps even Isiah Kiner-Falefa at shortstop (or Oswaldo Cabrera some days, depending on what happens with left field) because they are all clearly MLB-ready.
Volpe, on the other hand, has a higher upside than all of them but has just 99 plate appearances above Double-A, and those PAs showed he still needed a transition period at the higher level, just as he did initially with Somerset. He could definitely use some more seasoning in Scranton.
There is a big, big chance, however, that Volpe proves he is ready for The Show at some point in the second half. Volpe’s minor league career thus far has showed a trend of doubts and struggles, followed by adjustments and success at each level. It’s expected at this point that Volpe will make the changes he needs at Triple-A to conquer the level and move forward.
If that happens, the Yankees will have a perfect midseason addition ready to take over somewhere on the infield dirt, depending on the team’s needs at the time. He may even make Gleyber Torres a true trade piece at some point if he fully develops.
ARE YOU KIDDING? Anthony Volpe is ridiculous!— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) September 9, 2022
The @Yankees top prospect has his second home run TONIGHT after hitting his first Triple-A homer two innings ago and sending this one to centerfield.#RepBX #OffTheRails #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/Jsn503jWpN
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are still things for Volpe to learn with the RailRiders, and he will have several months to do it.
Let’s take a look at who Volpe is as a player. Just about every publication lauds his work ethic and gives him a “plus” hitting tool. His power is more steady than explosive, but it gives him a chance to hit 20 homers annually because he has amazing barrel control. Additionally, he is not an elite burner despite the 50 bases he swiped last year. He is fast, though, and has unmatched instincts.
Offensively, that’s the profile of a starting player no matter the position. Now, on defense, there are conflicting reports about his long-term home.
Here is what MLB Pipeline wrote just a few days ago about his defense:
“The lone question is whether his finely tuned internal clock can help him stay at shortstop with average range and arm strength (albeit with a quick release) that may be better suited for second base.”
We will take a page of FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and his 2022 prospects rankings, as he is yet to publish this year’s list. He said Volpe “is not a special fielder, and his arm is merely average, but he projects as good enough to stay at shortstop and reach the big leagues as an average defender at one of baseball’s hardest positions.” Even if Volpe’s far from a a liability at short, Peraza is clearly superior with the glove and the arm.
The bottom line is while Volpe has a slight chance of making the team out of camp, he is more likely to get some more seasoning in Triple-A, which puts him in a position to be a potential difference-maker for the stretch run. He could be a legitimate weapon when he is fully ready to consistently face MLB-caliber pitching, and that’s why the Yanks held on to him during all these months of trade rumors and speculation. There’s work to be done, but it’s fair for fans to dream on Volpe starting to make an impact as soon as this summer.