When people think of the shortstop of the future in the Bronx, they think of Anthony Volpe. Ranked as the Yankees‘ #1 prospect by all reputable prospect sites, Volpe has been met with plenty of hype since his breakout 2021 campaign. While the pressure is mounting for the young infielder from New Jersey, it’s becoming very likely that he ends up moving off of the shortstop position. There are some concerns about his arm strength at shortstop.
However, it seems as if he could perform well at the position if need be. That being said, Oswald Peraza is another top prospect in the organization, and his defensive excellence could force Volpe to second base.
He hasn’t played an inning at the Major League level, but it seems the Yankees are preparing Volpe for whatever position becomes available in 2023.
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Where are the Yankees moving Anthony Volpe?
The logical transition would be either 2B or 3B, but based on the reports that his shortcomings as a defender are arm-related, 2B seems to be the logical choice. Volpe is an incredible athlete in terms of speed and range, and with shift limitations, there’s added stress for second basemen defensively. Cameron Grove ran a study that shows that against left-handed batters, 2B are going to see a sudden increase in the value of their range, while there isn’t much of a change against right-handed batters.
As a whole, range for second basemen will become more valuable, even if marginally at best. With range being key and your arm not mattering as much due to the distance to first base, the Yankees have had Volpe also focus on honing his craft at 2B.
While the Yankees may want to try to give Volpe a shot to play the position he knows best, they have to act in the team’s best interest. Oswald Peraza is the favorite to win the shortstop job out of camp, and at just 22 years old, he’s still young enough to make significant leaps in his game. Hitting coach Dillon Lawson raved about Peraza’s exit velocities over the offseason, and with Peraza posting a Max Exit Velocity just shy of 110 MPH at Triple-A last year, it’s not out of the picture for him to add a little extra power and tap into his HR power.
Many people forget that Oswald Peraza hit 19 HRs in just 99 games with the Scranton Railriders in his first full season at the highest level of Minor League Baseball. That’s a ~28 HR pace per 150 games played, and while it’s unreasonable to expect Peraza to hit 28 HRs in his rookie campaign, he can put up solid HR totals for a defense-oriented prospect. With just how elite the glove is projected to be, his all-around solid offensive profile should bode well. He’s also got blistering speed, so the Yankees could see him become a base-stealing threat who can cause mayhem for opposing pitchers.
It doesn’t seem like Peraza is keen on giving up his job, and unless there’s an unforeseen change in skill level defensively, Peraza projects as the better shortstop and Volpe the better second baseman. It’s a good problem to have for the Yankees, as with more investments in their superstar-level talent, it’s important to have low-cost talent as well. It’ll be plenty of fun to monitor this duo playing together in the middle infield, but it seems as if the Yankees aren’t ruling out another potential infield possibility for Anthony Volpe.
A new theme that I’m sensing with this ballclub is increasing versatility, as the infusion of young talent coupled with a need to supplement their lineup internally places emphasis on lineup flexibility. The Yankees want to ensure that they can get the right guys in their lineup whenever possible, and Volpe is going to play a huge role in their ability to do such a thing in 2023 and going forward.
Aaron Boone Emphasizes Versatility
The Yankees have already had internal discussions about moving Judge to left field to play Stanton in right field. They’re trying to find which pieces fit best for their lineup, and Anthony Volpe is a part of that mixing and matching. When asked about the playing time of his infielders this Spring Training, Aaron Boone made a very interesting remark regarding the shortstop battle. It’s clear that Oswald Peraza is entering camp as the favorite there, but that doesn’t mean he’ll only be playing shortstop this Spring.
The reason this is important to note is that Anthony Volpe is going to also get looks at third base, something that could be interesting with Josh Donaldson manning the hot corner. After 2023 the Yankees can buy out Josh Donaldson for just $8 million, which would make him a free agent and take him out of their hands for good. If Donaldson struggles the way he did in 2022, it’s not hard to imagine that a red-hot Anthony Volpe could force a DFA and take over at 3B, especially since Gleyber Torres is projected to play a large role in this offense.
While it’s easy to pencil in Volpe at 2B by the All-Star Break, it’s likely that Torres either repeats or even improves upon his 2022 campaign. Steamer projects Gleyber Torres for a 120 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR, projecting him to be the 5th best 2B in the entire sport for 2023. You can’t just expect Anthony Volpe to immediately be a 120 wRC+ hitter in his first year in Major League Baseball, however, you can expect Volpe to outperform an aging infielder experiencing a career decline.
Torres finished 4th on the Yankees in HRs and in fWAR, and they’ll need to rely on his power bat to stabilize the middle of the lineup. The defensive strides and increasing maturity from an unpolished rookie to a seasoned veteran are apparent in his game, posting the best hard hit and barrel rates of his career after an abysmal 2021 season. He’s worked his tail off to get back into the good graces of the fanbase and organization, and I imagine he views this season as a pivotal year for his growth and development.
While I mentioned the issues with Volpe’s arm previously, it should be noted that the Yankees were top 3 in OAA and DRS from the 3B position, and neither LeMahieu nor Donaldson have rocket arms. While Donaldson’s arm strength ranked in the 42nd Percentile, LeMahieu sat at the 22nd Percentile. Infielders have shift limits, but they can still align themselves defensively in a way that they personally believe sets them up to have the best defensive outcome if they’re within the guidelines of the shift rules. Donaldson played deeper than he’s ever played at 3B, and LeMahieu also played deeper at 3B as well.
Volpe playing deeper at 3B wouldn’t affect his throwing distance all too much, but it would give him more time to react and make plays, something that could allow the Yankees to keep Peraza-Volpe-Torres together at once for the time being. DJ LeMahieu is going to play the rover role all season, though he could force one of these 3 out of the playoff lineup if he’s playing at the level he was prior to his toe injury. Regardless, the Yankees are going to remain fluid with positions in the infield, and Volpe is preparing to fill in where he’s needed.