No minor leaguer developed as well as New York Yankees’ shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe in the 2021 season. He hit .294 with 27 homers, 35 doubles, six triples, and 33 stolen bases in 109 games between Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.
But he wasn’t the star he is today back when he was drafted, in 2019. He had an average body for a 18-year-old kid, but work ethic and his drive to improve forced him to work on his physique during the pandemic.
“Over that pandemic, Volpe just worked on his craft a ton and showed up last year looking like he put on 30 pounds of muscle,” Yankees pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk told NJ Advance Media recently.
Seeing that kind of drive in a teenager was, in part, the reason why the Yankees took a chance on him in the first round of that 2019 draft. He was very projectable and had skills, but needed a lot of development. In the absence of a minor league season in 2020, he took matters into his own hands.
The Yankees shortstop of the future
Waldichuk said Volpe is “really smart” and knows what he has to do to succeed in professional baseball. He is always one step ahead of the rest.
“You could definitely tell he was different,” Waldichuk said. “He’s just really smart. You’d see him even on an off day studying pitchers, like seeing what their tendencies were, which is definitely a big-league thing.
“That’s where the whole mental game comes in, especially once you get to the higher levels. Hitters will study each other and they’ll see tendencies and they’ll just sit on stuff. I think the craziest part is at that (rookie league) level everyone’s a little younger and people will watch the game, but it won’t be literally every pitch. Whenever the other pitcher was on the mound, it almost seemed like Volpe was making a scouting report in his head. So you could see he had the mindset to be really good.”
Volpe is, by all accounts, the shortstop of the future in the Yankees organization. He will have his first taste of the upper minors in 2022.