Anthony Volpe will play shortstop for the Yankees at some point in 2023. It is just a question of when the New Jersey native makes his long-anticipated MLB debut.
It is very possible that Volpe could crack the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup. He’s been playing shortstop regularly in spring training games and regularly operates out of the leadoff spot. Volpe has also performed well, batting .297 with a pair of home runs and a .990 OPS in 13 spring training games. But then again, he is 21 and has only played in a handful of Triple-A games.
Such is the conundrum for manager Aaron Boone. He could start Oswald Peraza, who had a cup of coffee in the majors last year and even started a playoff game, or roll with destiny in Volpe. No disrespect to Peraza, but Volpe has been hyped to the point where the way-too-soon Derek Jeter comparisons are already happening.
The Yankees would probably be smart to start Volpe at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He only has 99 plate appearances at that level and his MLB debut can wait, if only for the sake of due diligence.
But if the Yankees decide he’s their man on Opening Day, they can certainly do worse than having a rookie headline their lineup. And that is where Volpe would sit. Here is our projected Opening Day lineup for the Bombers after Volpe gets the call:
No. 1: Anthony Volpe (SS). It’s all come to this. Volpe not only makes his MLB debut at Yankee Stadium, but he’s also the leadoff man in the lineup. Starting the rookie would be an aggressive move on Boone’s part, but Volpe knows how to make good contact and reads the zone well. This guarantees he gets good pitches to hit from the start.
No. 2: Aaron Judge (RF). No, the reigning MVP will not be back in the leadoff spot like he was much of last year. Judge largely batted first out of necessity late in 2022 and largely because DJ LeMahieu went down with a toe injury. Now the highest-paid player in baseball, Judge can expect to stay in the No. 2 spot for most if not all of the season.
No. 3: Anthony Rizzo (1B). Judge’s loyal second-in-command should be in line for a great year in 2023. He hit 32 home runs last year, but only hit .224 thanks to the shift. New rules in place mean Rizzo should enjoy something of a comeback season this year. He hasn’t hit a home run in spring training yet, but batting a stout .250 with a pair of doubles are a good sign of what to expect.
No. 4: Giancarlo Stanton (DH). Speaking of comeback seasons, Stanton absolutely needs one after batting a career-worst .211 last year. Like Rizzo, the former MVP still hasn’t hit a home run this spring. He is, however, making regular hard contact and batting a solid .296.
No. 5: DJ LeMahieu (3B). The comeback trail continues with the two-time batting champion, who was finally looking like himself again before his toe derailed his season. A long rehab later, the LeMahieu of old is back in his everyday utility role. He’s batting .400 with a 1.001 OPS in spring training too. That makes Josh Donaldson and his paltry .179 mark the odd man out.
No. 6: Gleyber Torres (2B). Here’s someone else who should benefit from the shift being gone. Torres has always been a natural contact hitter and doesn’t have to overcompensate for power anymore. He should hit to all fields more often this season and batting .308 in a handful of spring training games is an encouraging sign.
No. 7: Jose Trevino (C). We’ll kick off the bottom third of the order with the Gold Glove backstop. Trevino put up overall modest numbers last year, but still set new career highs in home runs and RBI. He also played in a career-high 115 games, so fatigue may also have been a factor. Trevino enters 2023 better prepared for a bigger workload and should be recovered from a sprained wrist by Opening Day.
No. 8: Aaron Hicks (CF). Nobody needs a redemption season more than Hicks, even if he’s batting eighth in this case. Harrison Bader’s oblique injury puts him in center by default and the best the Yankees can hope for is for Hicks’ solid spring to follow him to the Bronx. The power hasn’t shown up, but he’s batting a respectable .290 in Tampa and should see time in left field too.
No. 9: Oswaldo Cabrera (LF). Don’t get too used to seeing Cabrera in left field. Like his teammate LeMahieu, he’ll be used all around the field and provide Boone with plenty of options. More importantly, with the shift banned, most teams’ No. 9 hitters could be secondary leadoff men. That means contact hitters with speed, making the switch-hitting and versatile Cabrera a perfect complement to leadoff man Volpe.
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