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New York Post
Anthony Volpe belongs on Yankees roster no matter what
By Jon Heyman,
TAMPA — Wunderkind Anthony Volpe needs to be on this Yankees team. One way or another, his time should be now.
Yes, I know it’s only the middle of March, the Yankees have two other viable shortstop candidates and at least that many second basemen, and yes, there’s still two weeks to decide. And of course, that’s plenty of time for him to realize and understand he’s only 21, and has only played 22 games at Triple-A.
No matter, he belongs in the bigs, even if he’s too polite and respectful to say it (he’s nearly as polite and respectful as he is talented.)
The kid has definite star quality. He has terrific tools, and instincts that are off the charts, if there’s such a thing as a chart for instincts.
Yankees officials talk about him having the “it” factor. And after a week here, I see what they mean.
“He checks a lot of boxes, things that don’t always get noticed, intangible things,” said Yankees great Willie Randolph, here to provide mentoring to all their young infield stars.
If it truly is a competition, he’s turning it into a runaway. Volpe has a 1.103 OPS. He has two home runs and three stolen bases. And he seemingly has the respect of every club official, as well as the clubhouse veterans.
“He’s come in here with a lot of expectations and eyeballs on him, and he’s performed.” manager Aaron Boone said “It’s been fun to be around him and fun to watch him play the game.”
The Yankees first began noticing him when they sent scouts to monitor his Delbarton (N.J.) teammate, the pitching phenom Jack Leiter, the son of Al, who was by then one of the highest-ranked prospects in the country. When they saw the 5-foot-10, now 180-pound Volpe, they noticed little things. “He never took a pitch off,” recalled Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. “He was engaged all the time.”
And they noticed big things. When he batted third for Team USA’s youth team, which won the championship in an 18-0 blowout of Panama, they asked why, because Bobby Witt Jr., Riley Greene and Corbin Carroll, who just signed for $111 million, were on the team. “Because he’s my best hitter,” USA coach Jack Leggett told the Yankees.
Volpe, like Leiter, ultimately had the choice to play for Vanderbilt. And as the son of two doctors, he values education and intends to get his degree. “It was a super, super, super tough decision … a lot of sleepless nights,” said Volpe, who received an over-slot $2,740,300 as the 30th pick.
But at the end, the lifelong Jeter fan said he “didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to play for the Yankees.”
Now it’s up to the team, which has watched him progress well beyond expectations.
Isiah Kiner Falefa was solid last season at short but would make a great utilityman as a player who won a Gold Glove at third, can play the outfield and can actually catch, which he did as a Rangers rookie.
“I think it’s a good role for me,” Kiner-Falefa said of the utility job. “I think I’ll have success there, and they’ll like me more … hopefully.”
Oswald Peraza was very good at shortstop the last month of last year in a pennant race and has a stronger arm. But he’s not going to hit like Volpe, or provide the spark Volpe will provide.
Volpe isn’t declaring himself the leader. Which speaks well for him.
“I’m just grateful and happy I’m getting the opportunity,” Volpe said.
I said he should be on the team one way or another because it wouldn’t be so bad if they kept Peraza at shortstop and used Volpe at second, where he looks like a magician. “He could play second base in his sleep,” one NL scout said. “He’d be a 10-year All-Star at second base.”
Of course, to do that the Yankees would have to trade starter Gleyber Torres, who probably has a very limited market. I already made the first call for them, dialing up the Rockies, who lost coming star Brendan Rodgers for the year. But I was told by a Rockies person they are probably going with what they have.
It’s OK if Torres has no market, he is still a decent starting big-leaguer even if he isn’t the star we all envisioned when he hit 38 homers in 2019. Volpe’s greatest experience is at shortstop, anyway. And years ahead of schedule, he surely looks ready for that coveted job as Yankees shortstop.