Everything that's right about Anthony Volpe: 11 observations on the Yankees' No. 11

NEW YORK – The subject was Anthony Volpe, and his scorching start to the 2024 season.

Speaking with an MLB scout who’d seen the young Yankees shortstop as an amateur and through the minors, one line about the 2019 Delbarton School grad stood out.

“He’s turned into one of those guys that they can’t afford to lose.’’

Apr 5, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) follows through on a single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2024; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) follows through on a single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

That goes beyond the Yankees’ infield depth issues, with limited backup shortstop options and Oswald Peraza still early in his comeback from a right shoulder strain.

Volpe made 150 starts at shortstop in 2023, his rookie year, and the only game he’s missed so far was due to a stomach virus.

To match Volpe’s uniform number, here are 11 observations about the sophomore shortstop’s first 11 games of the year:

1. Anthony Volpe's flatter bat path

All spring, the talk around Volpe centered on his flatter bat path through the zone.

That new-and-improved swing has allowed Volpe better plate coverage and has produced more hard hits to center and right.

“He’s just more equipped to handle different pitches in the strike zone,’’ said manager Aaron Boone. “It leads to better (swing) decisions. He’s put together great at-bats.’’

2. Going inside the numbers

Entering Tuesday, Volpe’s “Batting Run Value’’ as measured by MLB Statcast was at 97 percent, in the “great’’ range, right with superstar teammate Juan Soto.

Volpe’s weighted on-base average (WOBA) was at .502, better than Soto’s .448 out of the gate. Last year, Volpe’s WOBA was .290 in 601 plate appearances.

3. The work behind the scenes

Volpe’s endless cage work and defensive drills might border on obsessive. There’s not a lot of down time to his offseason, and that dedication has played a role in his offensive breakthrough.

4. What sophomore jinx?

Is that even still a baseball term?

It used to be a warning label for Rookies of the Year who wouldn’t be taking the league by surprise the second time around.

Volpe has already managed to maintain his focus amid deep scrutiny, grinding through the 2023 growing pains while a growing chorus of New York voices wondered aloud why he wasn't being further seasoned at Scranton.

5. Picking up where he left off defensively

Volpe won the AL Gold Glove Award last year, but he didn’t consistently look like a candidate for that honor until about two months into the 2023 season.

He’s made several stand-out plays already this year, along with his daily reliability that pitchers and managers appreciate, and others may take for granted.

6. Inside the defensive stats

Backing up those high grades on Volpe’s defense is MLB Statcast, which put his “Fielding Run Value’’ at 91 and his range at 96. In 2023, those numbers were 57 and 66.

Volpe’s arm strength isn’t a forte, but his quick release “and excellent baseball instincts,’’ have had the scouts’ attention from early on. “He always anticipates the next play.''

7. The speed factor

Given the Yankees' more productive, better-balanced lineup, there's a chance that Volpe might have fewer stolen base attempts than last season, when he swiped 24 bases in 29 attempts.

Then again, if he's going to vastly improve on last year's .283 on-base percentage, that only increases his chances of surpassing his 2023 totals. He's already 3-for-4 in steal attempts, leading the team.

8. The power factor

Volpe's second homer of the year was a go-ahead, three-run shot in Monday's fourth inning against Miami.

In his brief MLB career, 11 of Volpe's 23 home runs have either tied a game or given the Yankees a lead, and he's poised to improve on last year's total of 21 homers - tied for sixth most by a rookie in franchise history.

9. A sensational start

Even with Tuesday's 0-for-4 in a 3-2 Yankees win over Miami, increasing their record to 10-2, Volpe's patience and strike zone discipline was on display during a 10-pitch at-bat.

He's reached safely in eight of his first 11 games, batting .375 (15-for-40) and he'd entered Tuesday ranked second in WAR among all MLB position players and first in the AL, via FanGraphs.

10. All for one attitude

Volpe plays the game with joy, but he’s low key in his manner, mostly deflecting attention and quickly praising teammates for the team’s all-around early success.

“We’ve won games coming from behind, playing from ahead,’’ Volpe said. “We’ve had the lineup pick it up, the bullpen pick it up, and starters giving us length. It’s been pretty well-rounded.’’

11. A future Yankees captain?

Some comparisons can be made to Derek Jeter and Aaron Judge regarding Volpe’s demeanor.

“The way he’s carried himself, it’s a confidence in his ability and he’s always worked hard,’’ said the MLB scout, traits that might one day elevate him to the Yankees’ captaincy.

That said, Volpe has a long way to go; he turns 23 on April 28, and Judge’s contract runs through 2031.

This article originally appeared on Anthony Volpe off to a hot start: 11 observations on the Yankees' No. 11