I know, it’s only been a week. However, if you watch every at-bat of every game from any team, you can get a pretty decent idea of their pulse even in just seven games.
So far, the Yankees have played quite well and are sitting with a 4-3 record. They’ve threatened to the very last out in each of their losses and have committed to putting together quality at-bats no matter the inning or situation. If you read in between the lines of some of these games, then you might be able to glean some insight on where the strengths and holes are.
I’m going to do my best in doing that, but I want to preface by saying I’ve been very pleased with the team thus far. Now, let’s get into my top four takeaways from the first week.
Anthony Volpe’s baserunning and fielding
Based on my experiences watching Volpe in the minor leagues over the past few years, I thought he was destined for second base. But after the combination of spring and the first week of the year, there are fundamentals and instincts here that are worthy of attention and appreciation. He may not be capable of a sizzling throw or wide range, but he is going to make the plays he can get to.
After a season of watching Isiah Kiner-Falefa struggle with routine plays and throws, it’s nice to see Volpe playing consistently solid defense. The other thing that has been great to see is his baserunning despite glaring speed. Baseball Savant has him in the 75th percentile, but he swipes bags as if he was a speedster.
The combination of these two factors suggests that Volpe can still be a contributor to the team at a premium position even if he initially struggles with the bat. When you have a wide skillset, it makes it difficult for a manager to take you out of the lineup if only one piece isn’t clicking.
Michael King’s release point
Peter Brody detailed how King’s start to the season has been shakier than expected. His movement profile is a little out of whack and his velo has ticked down. The velocity isn’t too big of a concern for me in this stage of the season, but the movement on the sweeper is weird.
My initial hunch was that he was still trying to find his release point, and I think there is something there. His vertical release point is a few inches higher than his 2022 average, and as somebody who seems to be great at manipulating movement off the side of the baseball, throwing from an altered release point can have a slight negative impact on hand and finger orientation at release, which then changes proprioception and movement.
Gerrit Cole is the best
Do I need to say much here? This is the best Gerrit Cole has looked in a Yankees’ uniform. Hitters can’t catch up to anything he is throwing. This is the most reliable ace in baseball, and he is reminding the league of that after two great starts.
IKF is playing a lot, but will it last?
When it was clear Isiah Kiner-Falefa was going to be a utility man for the Yankees, I thought that meant middle infield appearances and an occasional third base appearance. But his continued playing time in center field suggests the Yankees might like him better out there than in the infield. That could very well be due to Harrison Bader’s absence, but I imagine the Yankees will want to be careful with their elite defending center fielder given his injury history. So, will IKF continue to get consistent at-bats despite his inability to hit, or will Bader’s return knock him down to the bottom* of the depth chart?
*In fairness, if IKF falls to the bottom, he’d still be above Aaron Hicks, who appears to be below the floorboards.
None of these takes are cutting-edge, but I think that each of them will be in the front of our minds as we progress through the beginning stage of the season. Folks are going to want Volpe to hit right away, but if he doesn’t, he’ll be impactful elsewhere. King was the bullpen’s anchor through the first half dominance last year. Getting him back to form is crucial for the team’s success. Cole raises the floor of this team. He is their rock, and he seems to be improving. How long is the leash with IKF? Will the team’s persistence to play him shorten the length of the offense?
We will see all the answers to all these questions play out over the next few weeks as players return from injury and others settle into the season.