Yankees will keep surging shortstop at the top spot even after veteran returns

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Anthony Volpe has been red-hot in the month of May, riding an 18-game hitting streak and serving as the Yankees‘ leadoff hitter for most of the season. He’s settled in nicely to the role, bringing his season OBP there to .332 with a 112 wRC+. With DJ LeMahieu expected to return from his foot injury on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Angels, there was some debate about whether the Yankees would make a change at the top of the order. According to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, Aaron Boone told reporters that Volpe will remain the leadoff hitter.

This isn’t a shocker considering the strong season Anthony Volpe has had, posting a 129 wRC+ and .353 OBP through his first 53 games of the 2024 season.

Anthony Volpe to remain the Yankees’ Leadoff Hitter, DJ LeMahieu to Return Tuesday

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Following a blazing-hot start to his season where Volpe put up a 230 wRC+, the second-year shortstop slumped to the tune of a .192 average and 68 wRC+, hitting just one home run in 114 plate appearances. Since that slump, Volpe has gone on an 18-game hitting streak, as he has a 161 wRC+ and .369 OBP over that stretch. He’s settling into his role nicely atop their lineup, having the speed and pitch recognition to see pitches and set the table ahead of Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.

Last season was not what Anthony Volpe was looking for offensively, as he ran a high strikeout rate and posted an 84 wRC+ over 159 games. He’s swinging with a flatter attack angle, and the Yankees have seen the offseason work pay off big time early on. DJ LeMahieu has been their most frequent leadoff hitter since he was signed in 2019, and while he’s a veteran presence, there are plenty of questions surrounding what he can bring in his age-35 season.

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Through five rehab games, he’s hitting .308 with a .855 OPS as he’s played with their High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A affiliates in that timespan. If the Yankees are able to get numbers resembling more of what LeMahieu was in the second half of the 2024 season they’d be ecstatic, but data suggests that second-half results are not more or less predictive than full-season data.

The Yankees believe that he had to make swing adjustments last year because he compromised his mechanics in 2022 trying to play through injury, and the hope is that they could lead to a strong campaign as the Yankees’ everyday third baseman.

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