Anthony Volpe didn’t waste any time showing Yankees fans and fantasy owners what he can do, stealing a base after drawing a walk in his first MLB at-bat on Thursday in a 5-0 win over the Giants.
The 21-year-old shortstop, currently No. 6 in our updated Top 500 prospect rankings, stole the base easily off the battery of Logan Webb and Roberto Perez. He stole 50 bases in 132 minor-league games last year, so maybe projection systems were a little light (23 SB on ATC).
Volpe was 5-for-5 on SB attempts in 19 spring training games while batting .309 with 3 home runs to win the starting shortstop job from fellow rookie Oswald Peraza.
Drafted in the first round in 2019 out of Delbarton High School in New Jersey, he exploded on the prospect scene in 2021 by combining for 27 homers, 33 steals and a 1.027 OPS between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.
Expectations were so high last year that a slow start had New York fans wondering if they had jumped the gun anointing him the next great Yankee (much like the year before with Jasson Dominguez). Volpe was batting just .202 on June 4 for Double-A Somerset, albeit with 5 HR and 18 SB, before heating up with a .898 OPS in June and a 1.008 OPS in July. By the time he got promoted to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre on Sept. 2, he was batting .251 with 18 HR and 44 SB.
Volpe finished a 22-game stint in Triple-A batting .236 with 3 HR and 6 SB and it was assumed he would be returning to the International League to start the 2023 season before debuting for the Yankees sometime in the summer. Then came his electrifying performance in spring training, moving up the timeline to Opening Day in New York.
So what can we expect from the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder in his rookie season? Looking again at his ATC projection, Volpe is expected to struggle to hit for average initially (.235) with only moderate power (15 HR) in 132 games and 548 plate appearances. We’re betting that if Volpe gets to 548 PAs, it will be because he’s playing even better than that, so something like .250 with 18 HR and 30 SB is plenty reasonable.
The worry is that if he slumps with the Yankees having their eye on a deep postseason run, Peraza could get another shot, possibly even switching places with Volpe.
As for the long-term future, Volpe is getting the first chance to establish himself at shortstop, but he could also wind up at second base if (when?) the Yankees at some point trade Gleyber Torres, who has two more seasons of team control. Either way, he should be a big-time fantasy asset, maybe even something like Trea Turner with a little less batting average and possibly a bit more power.