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The best of Anthony Volpe’s golden year

Let’s count down the top five plays from the erstwhile rookie’s Gold Glove season.

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard, the New Jersey kid can pick it. Anthony Volpe took home a surprising but hard-earned Gold Glove award over two past World Series champions, the accomplished veterans Carlos Correa and Corey Seager.

The shortstop position has been a source of angst for many Yankees fans over the past couple of years. 2021 featured the Gleyber Torres disaster at shortstop and it took the team most of the year to realize he clearly wasn’t up for the task. Then, the ill-fated trade for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson occurred before 2022, and Kiner-Falefa took over starting duties. He was demoted from the position late in 2022 after blatantly poor defensive miscues. All this to say, it’s been a little while since Yankees fans saw stability at shortstop. Very few things in baseball are as aesthetically pleasing as a middle infielder with impeccable footwork, and Volpe showed this ability in abundance.

We knew from his scouting report that Volpe didn’t quite have the arm talent of someone like Correa, but the belief was his nimble footwork would mitigate the unspectacular arm. Volpe proved the scouts right — his 28th-percentile arm strength per Statcast was no problem given his range, quick release, and diligent work. Volpe improved as a hitter in fits and starts throughout the year, but his natural aptitude for the shortstop position raises his floor quite a bit, no matter how the offense turns out. UZR was his strongest metric, which makes sense given his excellent range. Outs Above Average didn’t love him, but Volpe is the kind of player whose defensive talent is best gauged through the eye test.

Today, we’ll revisit Volpe’s top five best defensive plays in a year full of web gems.

5. August 15th @ Atlanta Braves

One thing you won’t find on Volpe’s Statcast page is a number quantifying his superb instincts. We saw several plays in which Volpe adjusted seamlessly to an unexpected development in the play, and here, he makes an odd side-spin bounce off Kiner-Falefa’s glove look like a walk in the park. This is the kind of pure athleticism that had scouts raving about Volpe’s defense in the minor leagues, and also the kind that doesn’t necessarily show up in the metrics.

4. April 19th vs. Los Angeles Angels

This is a great example of that quick release from deep in the hole. After gloving the groundball, Volpe needs only one step and a plant foot before unleashing the ball to Anthony Rizzo. It isn’t a laser but it’s dead-on accurate. Volpe thrived making long throws with +2 OAA on balls he ranged back on.

3. May 15th @ Toronto Blue Jays

This is another athletic, fast-twitch play, in which Volpe stretches out his 5-foot-9 frame to nab a line drive. He’s not just athletic ranging back — he can elevate, too.

2. May 24th vs. Baltimore Orioles

Volpe makes his frame play longer than it is up the middle, perfectly exemplified in this full-extension snare against the Orioles, the eventual AL East champions. Here we also see another bullseye throw off the dive.

1. July 21st vs. Kansas City Royals

The top spot is an absolute dandy. The degree of difficulty isn’t crazy, but this is the definition of heads-up defense and adjusting to the play as it unfolds. For his part, as always, DJ LeMahieu is in the right spot, and they nab the runner in a big situation.

Volpe didn’t find enough consistency to slide into the Rookie of the Year conversation, but a Gold Glove is pretty sweet for a novice at a premium defensive spot. Oswald Peraza hasn’t impressed at the plate but he, too, is very highly regarded by scouts (even moreso than Volpe) at the middle-infield positions. The Volpe/Peraza double-play combo isn’t upon us yet, but very well could be soon depending on the course of action with Torres. One thing is for sure: the first Yankees rookie to ever win a Gold Glove has a bright future on the infield dirt in the Bronx.