Next Great Yankees Shortstop? Anthony Volpe has the look
TAMPA, Fla. -- Now comes the hard part for Anthony Volpe.
Aside from going to bed Sunday night, hours after learning he had made the Yankees, the team Volpe worshiped as a (younger) kid featuring the shortstop he idolized growing up across the river in New Jersey.
When asked if he’d be able to sleep, Volpe flashed that winning smile and made the most definitive statement of his spring.
“No chance,” he said.
But earning a spot on the Opening Day roster by dominating the Yankees’ shortstop competition the past six weeks is only Step One. And Volpe, who won’t turn 22 until late next month, already knows that — it’s part of the reason the Yankees felt confident enough to hand him the reins of the Jeter legacy.
This is just the beginning. The Yankees have used five Opening Day shortstops since Jeter retired at the end of the 2014 season, but none came anywhere close to carrying the hype that surrounds Volpe as he arrives in the Bronx.
First-round draft pick, untouchable prospect, Jersey-born — same as Jeter, and all he did was become the Yankees’ captain, win five World Series rings, make the Hall of Fame and have his No. 2 retired.
Willie Randolph, who could teach a class on the subject, was among the select few who lobbied hard for Jeter’s Opening Day promotion in 1996. He spent a ton of time with Volpe in spring training, and while Randolph hates drawing direct comparisons between the Hall of Famer and his obvious heir apparent, he viewed Volpe’s promotion as a very similar scenario.
“I see him as kind of what we might need now,” Randolph said shortly before the Yankees officially told Volpe in the manager’s office. “At this point in time.”
After Randolph’s endorsement, Jeter earned Rookie of the Year honors and led the Yankees to championship No. 23 that October, ending a 17-year drought for the title-starved franchise. Volpe’s promotion comes with the Yankees 0-for-13 in World Series tries after investing billions trying to get back there, and general manager Brian Cashman is giving him Jeter’s hallowed patch of Bronx dirt as the highly touted shortstop of a $292 million team.
Based on what Volpe has shown, really in all facets of the job, he looks ready for the assignment. He showed up in Tampa knowing he had a shot at the shortstop gig and wiped out the competition, hitting .314 (16-for-51) with three homers and a 1.064 OPS. On top of that, he played great defense at both shortstop and second base, displaying an all-round hustle that was infectious throughout the lineup (team-high five stolen bases, zero times caught).
Volpe was so impressive, in fact, that his primary rivals for the position began readying their concession speeches early. He dispatched the incumbent, five-year vet Isiah Kiner-Falefa, so quickly that the Yankees moved him to centerfield. Even Oswald Peraza, who made a great impression in his brief call-up last season, had to admit Sunday that he basically couldn’t keep up with Volpe.
“You have a pretty good sense of what’s happening,” Peraza said through an interpreter. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. Everyone can see that.”
It didn’t take long for the established Yankees, including captain Aaron Judge, to begin treating Volpe less like a prospect and more like a trusted teammate. Watching Volpe against the Phillies on Saturday, when he batted leadoff and fell a home run short of the cycle, you could see him passing intel to the regulars after scoring — a practice usually reserved for the savviest players.
“Usually you’re a little immature or a little unprepared,” Judge said, referring to youngsters of Volpe’s age. “But he seems ready to go every single game I’ve played behind him.”
Volpe just has that pinstriped DNA, with the mental game to handle all the extra stuff that comes with being pumped up as The Next Great Yankee. He spent most of the spring with reporters camped daily at his locker from the minute he showed up to the clubhouse until long after the final out.
Straight numbers aside, Volpe earned the respect of the clubhouse and won the job so convincingly that manager Aaron Boone would’ve had a mutiny on his hands if Volpe wasn’t on the team plane heading north.
Sunday was the only time Volpe appeared star-struck. “It’s super-surreal,” he said.
He is going to feel that way for a while, multiplied by 100 Thursday when he finally steps onto the Yankee Stadium turf in the midst of 50,000 screaming fans, his lifelong dream a reality.
Randolph has seen all this before — heck, he’s lived it himself as a former Yankees captain and part of a championship core. This is where things get challenging.
“You really can’t totally predict it,” Randolph said. “All you can do is see how he responds.”
The way Volpe responded, no one has ever looked more ready. And we’d even include Jeter.
The Yankees hope Anthony Volpe will be their long-term answer at shortstop, where they have started five different players on Opening Day since Derek Jeter retired in 2014.
2015 Didi Gregorius
2017 Ronald Torreyes
2019 Troy Tulowitzki
2020 Gleyber Torres
2022 Isiah Kiner-Falefa