And that alone is interesting in itself given the Yankees’ long and strange history with prospects. In the 1980s, late owner George Steinbrenner couldn’t trade them fast enough. Frank Costanza still hasn’t recovered from the Jay Buhner trade.
Times are different now. Almost reversed. Yankees fans are frustrated with general manager Brian Cashman for doing the opposite. He hoards minor league talent rather than trade one of the better ones for that one arm or bat who could win the 28th World Series title.
Volpe is one of these very prospects. The young shortstop and Watchung, New Jersey, native gives off strong “born to be a Yankee” vibes and is in the midst of his best professional season. A slow start at Double-A Somerset means he’s only batting .256, but his OPS is a solid .828. Volpe also has 20 home runs and 64 RBI to go with 47 stolen bases.
And yes, the 21-year-old has already drawn comparisons to another Yankees shortstop in particular.
This is important because Volpe recently got promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is raking. He’s batting .314 with a .928 OPS in just eight games.
Thus, Cashman should follow the same playbook Gene Michael used with Derek Jeter in 1995: call him up late in the season, but not to play. Jeter and future Core Four teammate Jorge Posada sat in the dugout and just took in the playoff experience. Two 20-somethings getting a front row seat to what was expected of them once they were in the big leagues.
Think of where the Yankees are in their season. They own a slim 5.5-game lead in the AL East. All remaining games will be intense and treated with October urgency.
What better time is there for Volpe to come up and just get a feel for the Yankees clubhouse? He will be a big part of the team’s future, regardless of Aaron Judge’s upcoming free agency. If Judge walks, maybe the heralded captaincy goes to Volpe instead?
Will this actually happen? Unlikely. The RailRiders are in the thick of a division race and tied for second with Jacksonville. They trail first-place Durham by just 1.5 games. With how well Volpe has played in a short time, the team will want to keep him for the stretch run. Similarly, until DJ LeMahieu returns from his injured toe, the Yankees won’t send Oswaldo Cabrera or Oswald Peraza to the minors.
But Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s season ends Sept. 28, while the Yankees’ ends Oct. 5. Even if the RailRiders make the playoffs, it makes sense for the Yankees to call Volpe to the Bronx. Remember, Peraza was called up too late and isn’t postseason-eligible, but turned in a career year at Triple-A beforehand. What better time for him to return to the farm than the playoffs?
It’s clear the Yankees think very highly of Volpe. The fact that the Yankees only entertained trading him for Juan Soto says it all. The front office clearly thinks very highly of him and the fact that he’s a local boy makes the story write itself.
Thus, if we’re going to compare Volpe to Jeter, it’s time to treat him like the Captain himself. Call him up to the big league club not to play but to watch, learn, and listen.
This is exactly how Jeter’s Bronx career started, albeit with a short cup of coffee the preceding spring. 20 years later, he wrapped a Hall of Fame career. It’s now Volpe’s turn.
Follow ESNY on Twitter @elitesportsny