The talk of the town for the New York Yankees is star prospect, Anthony Volpe. Management has given Volpe the green light to compete for the starting shortstop job, but while his first MLB opportunity waits in the wings, he is still likely to start the 2023 season in AAA with Scranton.
The 21-year-old prospect joined AAA last year for the remaining 22 games of the season after playing 110 for Somerset in AA. He hit .251 with a .348 OBP, 18 homers, and 60 RBIs with 44 stolen bases in Somerset. His numbers in Scranton took a bit of a dive, but only because the sample size is so small, and Volpe tends to get better over time. He finished hitting .236 with a .313 OBP, three homers, and five RBIs with six stolen bases — he did start his tenure in AAA with a six-game hitting streak.
Defensively, Anthony has been working diligently to improve his game over the past few seasons. While he has the tangibles to be a solid shortstop, he may project better as a second baseman in the long term.
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The Yankees need to deal with the impending infield log jam:
There’s no reason to rush Volpe to the major leagues prematurely, given the Yankees have a log jam in the infield. Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza, and Gleyber Torres are all fighting for starting opportunities. DJ LeMahieu is a guaranteed starter at either second base or third base; it’s just a matter of where manager Aaron Boone sees him playing this upcoming season.
The likely scenario is that Gleyber Torres locks down second base, Peraza wins the starting shortstop gig, and LeMahieu fills in on the hot corner, given his excellent defense there in 2022 and a required bat. Despite Donaldson earning $21 million likely riding the pine, Boone can’t justify leaving LeMahieu out of his lineup. There’s no other spot for him to play unless the Yankees trade Torres within the next few weeks.
As you can see, the infield is already crowded, meaning Volpe will likely be sent back to Scranton, where he can continue his development and prepare for a potential mid-season promotion. Looking at his numbers with Somerset, he started the season slowly but picked things up in June, hitting .298 with a .360 OBP, five homers, and 18 RBIs. He hit nearly .300 in July once again but increased his on-base rate to .416. August was equally as impressive before his numbers dived in September, with an increase in talent at the next level.
Seemingly, it takes the top prospect about two months to get his bearings and adjust to different levels of performance. If the Yankees keep him in Scranton until June hits, he could be right in the middle of a hot streak and take full advantage of an opportunity to hit in the MLB.
However, the Yankees can’t play a conservative game with Volpe. They need to give him an opportunity as soon as he’s ready at the next level. Keeping him down and restraining him from experiencing live reps with the top team will only hurt his development in the long term.