Yankees’ young shortstop is dazzling with new swing and approach

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, we saw the highly anticipated debut of top prospect Anthony Volpe, who had a season defined by strikeouts at the plate in year one with the Yankees. The high-contact, high-OBP hitter we saw with the Somerset Patriots in Double-A became a high-strikeout hitter profiled for the bottom of the order, beginning his season in the bottom half of the order. The hope was that he’d be a leadoff hitter by now, but some hitters take more time to develop than others. Volpe, who has been shrouded in expectations since he stepped foot onto a professional field, has begun to blossom with the bat after taking on a new swing.

This flatter swing path has created some buzz around his profile, and the early results are highly encouraging. While the season is still young, this is a continuation of some of the strides we saw in the second half. Anthony Volpe might have cracked the code, as his new swing has become arguably the biggest storyline in New York.

Anthony Volpe is Using New Swing to Boost the Yankees’ Offense

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks

Last season, we saw a small adjustment made over a chicken parmesan dinner with fellow first-round pick Austin Wells, and while he looked good from June to August, a September slump would see those numbers tank. The Yankees knew that they needed to help Volpe get back on track, and the big adjustment would come with his contact rates. He simply didn’t make contact enough, as while he had an above-average xwOBACON (.380), he would also rank in the 33rd Percentile in Whiff Rate (28.1%).

Hitting the ball more often meant flattening his swing, as he had one of the steepest attack angles in all of baseball, having the same loft to his swing that hitters like Kyle Schwarber have had this past season. This change in swing approach would take plenty of work, but so far, the results have paid off, as just last night, he recorded his first four-hit game at the Major League level. The AL leader in fWAR (0.7), Volpe has taken the league by storm in the early going, and the ability to consistently make contact is stunning.

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, anthony volpe
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The attack angle is down 6.5 degrees, and the bat speed is up to 71.1 MPH, with his quick hands and flatter bat path creating a direct point of contact where he can still do plenty of damage. Thus far, he’s hitting .571 with a 1.667 OPS, still doing damage to the baseball while having a swing that allows him to get to slow-breaking balls that right-handers used to torment him with. Some of the projections are in love with his hot start, as Steamer projects him to finish with a 110 wRC+ and 3.6 fWAR, which would certainly give the Yankees a nice boost to the top of their lineup.

It’s astonishing that he’s yet to swing and miss at a breaking ball, even across a poor sample size, and while pitchers will eventually adjust and get him in a cold streak (unless he’s just Barry Bonds), I’m confident he has the skill set to tweak things on his own as well. The high line drive rate is exactly what we saw when he was tearing it up at the Minor League level, and this is about as good of a start as it can get for a young player like Volpe.

I love his swing adjustments, and while we’ll need a larger sample size to start really getting excited, this is definitely a nice appetizer. The Yankees are 5-0, and their young shortstop of the future is ascending, not too shabby for an organization coming off of a brutal 82-80 season where Anthony Volpe had one of the 10 worst qualified OPS totals in all of baseball.

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