The Yankees have found their leadoff man for the next 10 years

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It is time for the Yankees to pass the baton from DJ LeMahieu to 22-year-old star shortstop Anthony Volpe regarding the lead-off spot. DJ suffered a significant bruise to his right foot during spring training after fouling a ball, and in the meantime, the Yankees have utilized Gleyber Torres at the top of the order.

However, the team finally decided to move Torres to the middle of the lineup on Wednesday against the Miami Marlins, a 5–2 defeat. This marked the transition to Volpe, who’s been red hot to open the 2024 season and continued his dominance in the loss.

“Excited. To be able to hit at the top of this lineup, and hit in front of guys like [Juan Soto], and just try to get on base and do my job, it’s a good place to be,” Volpe said, via the New York Post. 

Last season, Volpe hit .209/.283/.383, including 21 homers, 60 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases. His 84 wRC+ indicated he was 16% worse than the average MLB hitter. However, that has changed drastically to open this year, sporting a new batting stance and bat path at just 6.9° of launch angle compared to 14.2° last season.

The Yankees Have Changed Anthony Volpe’s Approach

Volpe is looking for more quality contact than trying to hit a home run every bat, which marks a big transition from the Yankees’ past strategy. Over 12 games and 51 plate appearances this year, Volpe is hitting an impressive .372/.460/.581, including two homers, six RBIs, and three stolen bases. He hosts a 17.6% strikeout rate, 13.7% walk rate, and 207 wRC+. He’s already collected one WAR this season, half his mark in 159 games as a rookie.

In his first game as the leadoff man this season, Volpe Torres contributed a hit and a run, but he also fought multiple at-bats and took plenty of pitches, which is exactly what Gleyber had been doing before the transition to the number six spot.

“Even though Anthony’s young, he’s one of those guys I don’t worry about being affected by different things,” Aaron Boone said on Wednesday. “Obviously love his at-bats, comfortable having him up there. … Where he’s hitting I don’t think impacts who he is as a player or anything like that.” 

Volpe may not have as many opportunities with runners in scoring positions, but he’s been elite in that regard as well, hitting .333/.600/.833, including a 1.433 OPS. Somehow, his sprint speed has increased to the 91st percentile after finishing in the mid-70s last year. His fielding value ranks in the 94th percentile, posting three defensive runs saved and two outs above average.

The truth is simple: Volpe has made significant improvements this past off-season, and they are tangible. It will be interesting to see how they operate when LeMahieu comes back and if they decide to move Volpe back down the order or if they keep him in the same spot for the next decade.

Manager Aaron Boone recently said that he would be the lead-off man sooner rather than later, but it seems as if the team expedited that process.

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