We’re two months into the 2023 MLB season and, safe to say, the Anthony Volpe experiment hasn’t gone as planned.
The Yankees’ young shortstop was practically crowned from the start. The chosen one from Watchung, New Jersey. He was Derek Jeter’s heir apparent, but with more power, and the numbers supported it. Volpe hit 21 home runs with an .802 OPS in 2022 — mostly at Double-A Somerset — and then hit .309 with three homers and a 1.033 OPS in spring training this year.
Cue Volpe winning the starting shortstop’s job over Oswald Peraza, and he has a respectable nine home runs on June 7. The downside is he’s batting just .191 on the year and his strikeout rate is 11th-worst in baseball at 31%. He has seven errors at shortstop.
Meanwhile, Peraza is batting .324 with ten home runs in 26 games at Triple-A. He didn’t fare much better in MLB this year, batting .188 in 12 games after Giancarlo Stanton hit the injured list. However, his strikeout rate over that stretch was only 15.8%, and Peraza has always been considered the better fielding shortstop.
So what do with Volpe who, despite the rough overall numbers, still hits .306 in “late and close” situations? And who ranks 35th in all of baseball with a hard contact rate (Hard%) of 38%? We should also note Volpe’s chase rate is in the 44th percentile. That’s not great, but also not in problem territory.
Thus, the Anthony Volpe problem sounds easy enough to figure out. He’s a 22-year-old local rookie who not only grew up a Yankees fan, but is now playing for them! He’s not completely like Joey Gallo in that while his results might not be there, he’s still taking clean swings.
The issue, rather, is he’s pressing at the plate. Or, in layman’s terms, Anthony Volpe is trying to do too much. He needs to relax.
So how do the Yankees address it? Well, under normal circumstances—as in not having so many injured players so early—Volpe would just keep playing through the slump and hopefully snap out of it. Except thanks to a freakishly good start by the rival Rays, plus those injuries, New York sits third in the AL East and 7.5 games behind.
Now, add DJ LeMahieu batting .229 since May 1. There’s still time, but the Yankees should be shifting towards urgency mode.
That means that unfortunately for Volpe, a brief vacation to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre could be in order. Again, he needs to relax and just remember who he is as a hitter. He’s played this game all his life and might just be in his head about actually playing for the Yankees. By going to Scranton, he can get back to basics and start trusting himself as a hitter again.
Better yet, perhaps he’ll remember to get on the field and, win or lose, just enjoy being part of the greatest game in the world.
In the meantime, the Yankees can fill Volpe’s spot with Peraza. He probably won’t hit .300 in MLB, but seems more comfortable putting bat to ball. Not only is also he the slicker glove, but the Yankees should be moving on from Gleyber Torres soon anyway. This leaves room for either Volpe or Peraza to take over at second down the line while the other handles shortstop.
Everyone wishes Volpe’s rookie year was in a better place, but the Yankees knew this could happen. They looked past 99 total plate appearances at Triple-A and decided he could continue developing in the big leagues. No risk, no reward, and the numbers still imply that Volpe’s upside is indeed there. To unlock it, however, he must head back down to the farm.
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