Yankees’ Anthony Volpe is safe at first on a fielder’s...

Yankees’ Anthony Volpe is safe at first on a fielder’s choice by the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

TORONTO – Two numbers jump out in synopsizing Anthony Volpe at the plate so far this season compared to the rookie version in 2023.

The first is 22, Volpe’s hit total that he brought into Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays, that figure good enough for the team lead, one ahead of Juan Soto’s 21 (and while some in the analytics crowd still scoff at things like hit totals and batting averages, those wearing the uniform very much see those numbers, among others, as indicative of a given player’s prowess holding a bat).

Volpe reached 22 hits after going 1-for-4 in Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays, a day after going 3-for-4 in Sunday’s extra-inning loss to the Guardians. The second-year shortstop entered Tuesday hitting .373 with a 1.006 OPS.

The second number of note: 100.4. Miles-per-hour, to be more specific.

That was the pitch speed on the 2-and-1 cutter from Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase that Volpe lasered to right for a two-out double in the ninth Sunday that tied the score at 5-5 (the Yankees lost in 10 innings, 8-7).

“No chance he hits that pitch last year. None,” one rival AL scout said Monday. “Maybe he makes contact (last year) but putting together that kind of at-bat against that guy (Clase)? No chance. Not with that uppercut swing where it looked like he was always trying to pull the ball 500 feet.”

Or, as another rival AL scout put it Tuesday of Volpe this season compared to last: “Night and day.”

Though Volpe, as a 21-year-old rookie, won the American League Gold Glove last season and hit 21 homers, the shortstop took little satisfaction in his work offensively.

A hit-to-all-fields-put-the-ball-in-play batter during his quick climb through the Yankees’ minor league system, Volpe, though he would never say it publicly, was perhaps the biggest casualty of former hitting coach Dillon Lawson’s “hitting bombs” philosophy.

Volpe, in addition to hitting .209 with a .283 on-base percentage in 2023, struck out 167 times in 601 plate appearances.

Entering Tuesday, Volpe, who talked throughout the spring of his offseason work to “flatten” his bat path, had struck out 10 times in 70 plate appearances.

“I did think the swing was flatter,” said one NL scout who saw Volpe recently. “But I also thought he looked a lot more confident and convicted in his swing decisions. I saw him when he was at (Double-A) Somerset (in 2022) and thought he looked a lot more like that (this year).”

Aaron Judge, who almost from Day 1 of spring training 2023 took Volpe, in camp trying to win the starting job at short, under his wing, shook his head Sunday in talking about the piercing line-drive double off Clase (whom Volpe had never faced before).

“Incredible,” Judge said. “For him to come up there, battle off some tough pitches … and then drive the ball to rightfield like that. It’s been impressive to watch all season long and we’re going to continue to watch that I think.”

Judge added later: “Anything with triple digits and moving like a cutter, it’s damn near impossible to hit. But he took a great swing, he didn’t try to do too much with it, just tried to stay inside it. You get rewarded when you do things like that.”

Judge touched on what opposing team scouts have been discussing about Volpe since the spring, which started, incidentally, with him hitting a ground smash back up the middle for a single in his first at-bat of the Grapefruit League season Feb. 24 in Lakeland against the Tigers (on a 1-and-0, 96-mph sinker from righthander Reese Olson).

“His ability to use the whole field right now,” Judge said. “That’s one thing that I saw watching him in the minor leagues. He did a great job of hitting the ball to left, hitting the ball to right, two strikes, 3-1 count, didn’t matter what the count was. And that’s what we’re seeing now, him kind of doing the same thing. I think last year, anybody’s first year in the big leagues, making it out of camp, you’re excited. But the special thing about Anthony is he’s the type of guy that he’s going to make changes, he’s going to make adjustments to get better every single year, and that’s what we witnessed in the offseason and it’s all paying off for him so far this year.”

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