In perhaps the most exciting news to come out of Yankees camp this year, Anthony Volpe crushed opposing pitchers in spring training and is headed for the big leagues on Opening Day. It seemed unlikely that the Yankees’ top prospect would be immediately called up, but his preseason performance helped prove his readiness, and he rightfully won the job at shortstop. Spring training, as we know, often doesn’t mean all that much, but Volpe showed some excellent skills, and obviously has the tools to help the Yankees in a big way this year.
2022 (AA/AAA) Statistics: 132 games, 596 plate appearances, .249/.342/.460, 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 19.8 K%, 10.9 BB%
2023 ZiPS Projections: 131 games, 592 plate appearances, .234/.318/.407, 17 home runs, 77 RBI, 23.5 K%, 9.0 BB%, 108 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR
Volpe, 21 years old and a top-10 prospect in baseball, will likely serve as the everyday shortstop until the Yanks are forced elsewhere. He has the tools to boast a 60 future value on FanGraphs, and has been a highly talked about prospect for a few years now. Last season, Volpe used those tools to turn in a solid season across the minor leagues. He played 110 games in Double-A and was a solid producer, posting a 122 wRC+ — less eye-opening than his previous year, but it was also simply a higher level of competition as well. He was hitting for good power and posted a solid 11.5 percent walk rate.
His promotion to Triple-A didn’t go quite as smooth, but it’s important to remember that it is an adjustment, and it was under 100 plate appearances regardless. He struck out nearly a third of the time, and didn’t hit for much power, but overall was still able to keep his head above water for the most part for Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
This year’s spring training, however, is where he really opened eyes of late, and what ultimately earned him the Opening Day call up. Over 17 games prior to his promotion, Volpe hit a trio of home runs, and slashed .314/.417/.647. Again, it’s just spring training stats, but OPSing over .1000 is never a bad thing.
Perhaps most importantly, he showed some legitimate big league skills at the plate during this time, particularly an ability to adjust to pitchers (even very good ones). Friday afternoon, Volpe started his day by swiftly striking out against Pablo López on three pitches. His next at-bat against López? He took a first pitch breaking ball and launched it over the center field wall.
Looking forward to his debut season in the majors, ZiPS gives him fairly optimistic projections. It has him pegged for a 108 wRC+, this is respectable especially given the occasional hesitance that comes with rookie projections, all culminating to a very promising 3.5 projected fWAR. He’s a good all-around player, with solid on-base skills, and power that played quite well in his first full year of pro ball. It translated into 20 homers in the higher levels last year, and some impressive long balls this spring. MLB has him as the fifth-best prospect in baseball headed into the year, and it’s nice to see him get a deserved chance from get-go, rather than the team messing with service time. For a franchise that ran out Isiah Kiner-Falefa last year, Volpe could be a serious impact player for Yanks and a big improvement overall.
Of course, Volpe is a shortstop, and he will begin the season there. One would assume that his call up means that it’s now his job to lose, considering Oswald Peraza’s demotion, and IKF’s move to a utility role. At the start, the phenom will find himself near the bottom of this Yankees lineup, adding to a group that could be among the best if everything clicks.
Shortstop was among the chief concerns for this Yankees squad headed into spring training. It was going to be a battle, and ultimately, it seems that the best and most anticipated option proved victorious. Anthony Volpe is among the better prospects the Yankees have had come up of late, and likely seeing him at shortstop on Opening Day will be a treat. He’s a young and supremely talented player, and one that could provide a major boost to the 2023 Yankees.