Yankees’ young shortstop is taking steps in the wrong direction

yankees, anthony volpe
Jun 9, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe (11) reacts after popping out against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The reality is disheartening and demoralizing, but Anthony Volpe, the Yankees‘ top prospect and young shortstop, is struggling to adapt to the MLB.

Observing Volpe’s daily demeanor implies a deep-seated sense of frustration. Every plate appearance seems challenging, and it’s clear that he is no longer allowing his instincts, usually exhibited by elite plate discipline, to guide him.

Though hard to witness, Volpe’s performance metrics have been steadily declining over recent weeks.

Most expected the 21-year-old infielder to have a rocky start. In April, he batted .222 with a .333 OBP, laying the groundwork for a promising season. However, these figures fell in May, with him hitting .174 with a .216 OBP. By June, his performance had plummeted entirely, as Volpe hit .125 with a .160 OBP and .410 OPS.

Throughout his 24 at-bats this month, Volpe’s difficulties have compounded, and his confidence has plunged dramatically. His 37 strikeouts in May were concerning, and his excessive aggression in the batter’s box hasn’t improved the situation.

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The Yankees need Anthony Volpe to remain disciplined:

Ahead of Saturday’s win, Volpe held a 30.5% strikeout rate, a .189 average, and a .264 OBP. Yet, he managed to hit nine homers with 26 RBIs and a team-high 14 stolen bases. Despite these positive aspects of his game, his lack of discipline is disturbing, particularly considering his 17.7% strikeout rate in Double-A the previous year.

anthony volpe, yankees

Volpe ranks in the 10th percentile for strikeout rate, 31st percentile for whiff rate, and sits average in exit velocity. His 82nd percentile sprint speed has been greatly beneficial, both on the base paths and in creating diversions to aid his teammates.

His spray chart reveals his adeptness at utilizing all parts of the field, clearly indicating his capability to hit at the major league level. Given that he’s only 21, it’s reasonable to expect periods of difficulty. However, the Yankees are not planning to remove him from the lineup anytime soon, given their commitment.

A closer look at Volpe’s performance against specific pitches reveals that he fares best against fastballs, despite a .215 batting average with 26 hits and seven home runs. He struggles with breaking balls and off-speed pitches. The former result in a .167 batting average with a 31.3% whiff rate, while off-speed pitches have reduced him to a .138 average with a 38.3% whiff rate.

Opposing teams have learned how to exploit Volpe’s inexperience, but the young player must resist becoming consumed by frustration.

Volpe’s strategy of compensating for poor discipline with home runs is unsustainable and has left the Yankees in a difficult position in recent years.

Reviewing his defensive metrics, Volpe began strongly but has faltered in recent weeks. He currently holds a .969 fielding percentage with seven errors over 550.2 innings. Despite having five defensive runs saved, he has -3 outs above average, contradicting his positive output.

Volpe still has ample time to develop further, but the Yankees have effectively sacrificed a spot in the batting lineup to give him opportunities.

Some are beginning to suggest that the Yankees replace him with Oswald Peraza, who has been relegated to their Triple-A team this season. However, as Boone had advocated strenuously for Anthony’s promotion, he has no choice but to persevere until the end.

It’s vital to remember that many distinguished players in the past have endured challenging rookie seasons. I am in no way ready to dismiss Volpe; on the contrary, I believe they need to keep giving him playing time.