The New York Yankees didn’t have many positives this past season at the Major League level, but the performance of their rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe on the defensive side of things was certainly one of those few.
After posting an American League-best +16 Defensive Runs Saved with +1 OAA at the shortstop position, he was named one of three finalists for the Rawlings’ Gold Glove Award, joining superstars Carlos Correa and Corey Seager in the final vote.
With questions surrounding Volpe’s defensive play entering the 2023 season, it’s an honor he’ll certainly be proud of as he looks to have a better sophomore season. There are still questions pertaining to his bat, but with the Yankees struggling to get reliable defense at the position for decades, Volpe provides a beacon of hope for the franchise to finally find a strong defender at the position.
Entering Rarefied Air for Yankees’ Shortstops
Derek Jeter is the only Yankee to ever win a Gold Glove at shortstop for the team, and while the legitimacy of said awards has been questioned in the advent of new data that better contextualizes defensive value, it’s still an incredible honor. Becoming just one of two shortstops in a storied franchise’s history to take home a Gold Glove award is massive, and even more impressive given the fact that there were massive doubts about his ability to play the decision.
While Volpe did in fact struggle with Arm Strength, it didn’t prevent him from being a net positive at one of the toughest positions in the game. Being a strong defensive shortstop can anchor a player’s value, as the position is one that few in the sport can reliably handle, and it is why despite an OPS under .700, the 22-year-old rookie finished with over 3 WAR on Baseball Reference, and nearly 2 WAR on FanGraphs.
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Anthony Volpe Should Win the Award
Given the fact that his competition in the Final Vote is pretty slim, it would be hard to imagine that the voters would be able to give anybody other than Anthony Volpe the award, as he leads both Correa and Seager in Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average. Defensive metrics aren’t perfect, and people will point to Volpe’s errors as a reason to not give him the award, but it’s been clear that defenders who attempt more difficult plays are more prone to errors, factors that DRS and OAA better account for.
Anthony Volpe alongside fellow infielder Anthony Rizzo will look to capture Gold Gloves for the Yankees, who finished 11th in Defensive Runs Saved (27) and 12th in Outs Above Average (4) as a team. Volpe may not be the hitter we’d like him to be just yet, but as a defender at his position, he’s more than capable of being a lockdown defender, especially after finding more consistency with his glove in the summer.
After having a -2 OAA through the month of May, Volpe posted a +3 OAA for the rest of the season and gave the Yankees the reliable defensive play they desperately needed at the position after years of struggling to get any defensive value there. Prior to Volpe’s rookie season in 2023, the Yankees were dead-last in DRS (-220) and OAA (-69) while having the second-worst UZR (-86.5) as well as a franchise, and hopefully the budding shortstop can continue his defensive excellence while progressing offensively as well.