Saturday, March 4, 2023

Anthony Volpe, Star of the Future...


Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

Volpe is making a tremendous first impression…

Anthony Volpe is fantastic, but…he will not be the Yankees’ Opening Day starting shortstop.

At some point later this month, Volpe will be reassigned to Minor League camp and sent to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Many Yankees fans will have a difficult time accepting it when it happens, but we would be foolish to expect the Yankees to deviate from their plan.

Volpe is the likely winner of the James P. Dawson Award which goes to the best Yankees rookie in Spring Training. The award originated in 1956, and Clarke Schmidt, battling Domingo German for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, was the 2022 winner.

Volpe is a special player. He has the “it” factor, and his Baseball IQ has been described as ‘off the charts’.  While I believe Volpe could play in the Major Leagues today, it is important to understand the Yankees feel he needs more time to establish himself at Triple-A before his ascent to the Bronx. I do not believe this is a case of service time manipulation.

Volpe played 110 games for the Double-A Somerset Patriots last season. He slashed .251/.348/.472, with .358 wOBA and 122 wRC+, hitting 18 home runs and 60 RBI.  His performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A, where he played 22 games for the RailRiders. His line at Triple-A dropped to .236/.313/.404, .320 wOBA and 91 wRC+. He had 3 homers and 5 RBI.  The Triple-A numbers are a small sample, but it is a level Volpe has not yet mastered. 

In a very small sample size (eleven at-bats) this Spring, Volpe is hitting .364/.417/.727…against minor league pitchers and non-roster guys desperately trying to make their respective teams. The inflated batting line, strong defensive play, and on-the-field leadership qualities have led to heightened fan expectations. If you believe Volpe should be the Opening Day starting shortstop and will be upset if it does not happen, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. 

Anthony Volpe with Derek Jeter "several years ago" (Photo Credit: Twitter/@TalkinYanks via @SOMPatriots)

MLB History is littered with great players who skipped minor league levels. It always makes me think of former Atlanta Braves slugger Bob Horner who was the first overall amateur draft pick in 1978 and was directly inserted into the ’78 Braves starting lineup. No comparison to Volpe, Horner was a collegiate player while Volpe was drafted out of high school so there were obvious differences in age, maturity, and development. Horner is just my reference point for ‘I don’t need no stinking minor leagues!’. 

If the Yankees believe Volpe needs more time in Triple-A, maybe he does. I do not want the Yankees to rush his development, and I support careful handling to ensure Volpe is the best player he can be. I am confident he will make his Major League debut in 2023. Maybe not late March or early April, but we will likely see him by the All-Star Break if all goes well. 

Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

I am excited about Volpe’s future. This is the best I have felt about a Yankees rookie since Aaron Judge (with no intended disrespect to Gleyber Torres).  I am less confident about which position Volpe will play. Oswald Peraza’s best position seems to be shortstop, and the general talk has Volpe at second base where Gleyber Torres currently resides (thus, all the Gleyber trade talk). Third base is a possibility, and the Yankees will soon need a replacement for Josh Donaldson. If Donaldson continues his poor offensive performance, the change could happen as soon as this year. If not, it still seems unlikely Donaldson will be on the 2024 Opening Day Roster.   

I refuse to be upset when the announcement comes down that Volpe is headed for Triple-A. I support the Yankees’ opinion, and their belief it is in the best interests of the player and the organization. 

Volpe’s time will come…soon.  Patience requested. 

Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa, and Hicks

Every week, I reevaluate where I am with Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Aaron Hicks.

I have softened on Donaldson. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that the lockout and short Spring Training that included an unexpected trade from the Minnesota Twins to the Yankees may have adversely impacted Donaldson’s display at the plate last season. If for no other reasons than I love his defensive value at third, I am willing to give Donaldson time this season to see if he can be the feared hitter he once was. Maybe Father Time has him in a stranglehold, maybe not. I will hope for the latter, but I am prepared for the former.

Josh Donaldson and Aaron Boone (Photo Credit: Nam Y Huh/AP)

Personally, if I owned the team, I would trade Donaldson and make DJ LeMahieu the starting third baseman. Since that is unrealistic, I accept Donaldson’s presence and I am willing to give him a chance. 

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is NOT a Major League starting shortstop. The Yankees were foolish to think he was last season. Yet, Kiner-Falefa has value as a utility player. At $6 million this season, he is an expensive utility, and like high-cost natural gas, it is best to use in moderation. I will always be amazed the Texas Rangers spent a half-billion dollars to replace IKF, and the Yankees passed on elite free agent shortstops to give him the starting job. How did Texas know who IKF was, and the Yankees did not?  The Yankees are a smart organization, but IKF was a misjudgment on their part. 

I believe strongly that Oswald Peraza will be the Opening Day starting shortstop. If you are upset about Volpe being sent down, I will be upset if Peraza does not take the field in the top of the first inning on Thursday, March 30th when the Yankees play the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium. 

If IKF is on the roster as an infield utility (I dismiss the outfield talk), I am fine with it. He can carve a role with the team in a backup capacity. If he is traded to a suddenly infielder-needy team like the Los Angeles Dodgers or Colorado Rockies, fine. I will pack his bags and drive him to the airport. 

This leads us to Aaron Hicks. My God, how does this guy still have a job with the New York Yankees? I am done with Hicks. Finished. Kaput. My patience ran out with him a long time ago and there is no hope for restoration. I would love to see the Yankees sign Jurickson Profar and trade Hicks even if they must pay part of his contract. If not Profar, other trade options could bring in better players than Hicks.  Maybe not a Brian Reynolds, but a quality outfielder can be found at the right price. With terrific outfield prospects Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, and Spencer Jones on the horizon, the Yankees only need a quality left fielder to cover the next year or two. Aaron Hicks is not that guy. Next…

The King is back!

Michael King made his presence felt yesterday when he pitched two hitless/scoreless innings in the Yankees’ 5-3 loss to Detroit. He struck out four Tigers in his dominating Spring debut.

After King’s breakout last season, he has become such a force in the bullpen. When he was lost for the season last year with a fractured elbow, the team suffered for it. I always like to say everyone is replaceable, but last season, King proved nobody could replace him. 

Michael King (Photo Credit: Yankees/

King is one of my favorite players and I love his role with the Yankees. I am sure there will be bad days. There always are with the crazy game of baseball, but King brings confidence each time he enters a game. If the Yankees win the World Series this year, King will have made a significant contribution to reaching the goal.   

I pray good health follows King this season. The Yankees need him, we need him. All hail the King!

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)