As perhaps the biggest story coming out of the Yankees’ spring training camp in 2023, Anthony Volpe entered his debut season with some serious weight on his shoulders. Shortstop was a big question mark for the club entering spring, and in a surprise move, the Yankees opted to give Volpe, their top prospect and a top-ten prospect overall, a chance right out of the gate. He made his big league debut on Opening Day, en route to what was an inconsistent rookie season, but one that still showed significant promise.
2023 Statistics: 159 games, 601 plate appearances, 21 home runs, 62 runs, 60 RBI, 24 stolen bases, .209/.283/.383, 84 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR, 8.7 BB%, 27.8 K%
2024 Contract Status: Arbitration eligible in 2026
Volpe had an excellent spring, displaying his his pop and overall maturity at the plate, and of course had a nice minor league resume to go with it. The call-up was well deserved, and it was refreshing to see the Yankees, let alone any team, give their budding prospect an opportunity right from the start of the season.
He was thrown right into the fire on March 30, where he got the Opening Day nod at shortstop against the Giants. He would go 0-for-3 with a walk, but recorded his first two hits in the following game.
Yet the success that led to his promotion did not reflect immediately in The Show. His first month was respectable enough, as he walked nearly 15 percent of the time, swatted his first couple of homers, and posted a 94 wRC+ in 108 plate appearances. The wheels came off a bit in May.
Pitchers picked up on his solid plate discipline, and began pounding the zone with heaters, and moving their breaking balls further away from Volpe. With his stride tending toward the open side of things, he was flailing at them too often, something Esteban covered quite well here in May. His strikeout rate ballooned above 30 percent, and his walk rate was less than a third of what it was the month prior, his wRC+ plummeting to 54. He was swinging more often, and a combination of some poor luck and those faulty swing decisions led to results that left much to be desired.
He did bounce back with a nice month of June, with his best stretch of the season coming in the latter half, but slumped yet again once the calendar turned to July. August rolled around, and he had his most consistent stretch where he maintained a 142 wRC+, swatted seven homers, and carried a much improved strikeout rate of 22.5 percent.
Of course, as trends would have it, Volpe followed up with his worst month of the season to close out his rookie year. The month demarcations are arbitrary, but they do a nice job in showing the rollercoaster nature of his season. His rolling wRC+ does the same, as he reaches some solid highs, while carving out deep valleys:
As far as recognition goes, his fielding was more than solid. He rated as a solidly above average fielder at short according the Savant’s outs above average, sitting in the 66th percentile. His 15 DRS was eye-popping, and was seen as good enough at short to be voted as the American League’s Gold Glover.
All told, as a 22-year-old rookie, Volpe posted a 84 wRC+ in 159 games, launching 21 homers, accumulating a 1.9 fWAR, and of course taking home a piece of hardware. All things considered, it could have been a much worse debut. There are some holes in his game, which flared up rather brightly from time to time. But, the talent is hard to deny, and just entering his age-23 season next year, there is plenty of time for he and the Yankees to make some refinements to help him take the next step.
He had huge prospect pedigree for a reason, and though his season may have felt like a let down at times, it’s still fair to be optimistic. Though his debut may not have been a resounding success, the truth is that Volpe’s story is only just beginning. The Yankees will hope that his sophomore year will show some real steps forward from this up-and-down rookie year.