The Yankees may have a new lead-off hitter on opening day

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees
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The Yankees are already dealing with a few injuries this spring training, notably Gerrit Cole in the starting rotation. However, starting third baseman DJ LeMahieu fouled a ball off his foot this past weekend and has a significant bone bruise, potentially knocking him out for the first few games of the season.

LeMahieu indicated on Wednesday that he is still hopeful he can play in a little bit more than a week, but the Yankees are managing the injury with a cautious approach, making sure he’s good to go for the duration of the season and not compromising his future health. If he is forced to miss any time, the Yankees could pivot to their young shortstop as the primary lead-off hitter to start the regular season

The Yankees Should Give Anthony Volpe the Reigns

Anthony Volpe has been dominant this spring, coming off his rookie campaign, in which he hit .209/.283/.383. He managed 21 homers with 60 RBIs and 24 stolen bases, hosting a 27.8% strikeout rate and an 8.7% walk rate. He certainly left a lot to be desired. Still, nobody expected his development to stop after his first season as a professional, and he certainly put his head down and made some major improvements this off-season.

Notably, Volpe evened out his swing and has completely changed his fundamentals regarding his balance in the batter’s box. His swing has a lot more structure, and his eyes are laser-focused on the ball rather than allowing his head to swivel and lose focus throughout the process.

This spring, Volpe is hitting .333/.375/.511, including a homer, five RBIs, an 18.8% strikeout rate, and a 6.3% walk rate. Compared to his rookie numbers, he’s experienced almost a 10% decrease in strikeout percentage, and his wRC+ is up to 135, indicating significant momentum in the right direction. Of course, it’s fair to take spring training numbers with a grain of salt, but the Yankees are certainly excited about his growth and development.


In a perfect world, Volpe would be the team’s primary lead-off man, especially with his qualities on the base paths. Boosting his walk rate slightly and maintaining his on-base percentage would give Juan Soto and Aaron Judge a lethal runner in scoring position who can disrupt the flow and momentum of pitchers and put himself in a spot to score on a single.

For now, the expectation is that Volpe will bat number nine in the order, leveraging the wraparound to the top of the lineup, but if DJ is forced to miss a few games, I wouldn’t be surprised if Volpe got the nod.

Ideally, he would start the season and maintain that role, allowing LeMahieu to slot back in elsewhere in the batting order; the Yankees can leverage Volpe’s athletic profile.

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