Keith Law of The Athletic has published his Top 100 MLB Prospects for 2022 and former Diamond Jack Anthony Volpe has exploded up that chart to No. 10.
The Delbarton grad and current shortstop for the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate Somerset Patriots was left off of Law’s Top 100 prospect list just one year ago. Law performs a wonderful job in a thankless annual effort to rank MLB’s top prospects and deserves credit for calling himself out when he believes he should be corrected.
Volpe, 21, was drafted No. 30 overall in the First Round by the Yankees in 2019 after an All-State and state championship senior season at Delbarton.
“Full disclosure,” said Law in his column today in The Athletic, “I thought the pick was a huge reach and I had Volpe wildly under-ranked as recently as last February. I was wrong.”
Volpe battled mononucleosis his first summer in Rookie ball with the Yankees and lost what would have been his second season to the COVID pandemic. Nonetheless, Volpe has forced a major correction upon prospect prognosticators over the past 12 months, courtesy of a tremendous 2021 season with the Yankees’ Single-A and High-A affiliates.
The 5-11, 180-pound Volpe started hot in 2021 and stayed right there, locked in, throughout a season in which he batted .294 hit a stunning 27 home runs and stole 33 bases in 42 attempts. He reached base at a .423 clip and slugged .604 to produce a gaudy 1.027 OPS. And, according to Law, played “above-average to plus defense at short all year.”
The Yankees announced recently that Volpe will begin the 2022 seasons at the Somerset Patriots’ TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, a short drive from where he grew up.
Law recalls some of the general analysis of Volpe’s skills as a high school player.
“He was the shortstop on that (Delbarton) club,” Law tells his readers, “but he wasn’t the traditional, tooled-out high school shortstop; he was praised for his baseball IQ, his instincts, his feel for the game, but didn’t have a clearly plus tool at the time, or even that summer in short-season Pulaski.”
To Law’s defense, that was all true, but those who saw him play as an 11 year-old through his high school years, knew what the full Volpe package was all about. True, Volpe had not yet exploded, prospect-wise, to the general scouting fraternity. That would happen, though, in a big hurry in 2021 when AV simply provided indisputable evidence for the one thing that is indisputable, performance.
Volpe is tied to a few other players in Law’s Top 100. His Delbarton teammate, Jack Leiter, is No. 26 on the list after being drafted No. 2 overall last June by the Texas Rangers. Leiter spent one season at Vanderbilt where he simply wowed scouts for his array of plus pitches. Leiter was the winning pitcher and Volpe hit a leadoff home run in Delbarton’s state championship victory over St. Augustine Prep in 2019.
Bobby Witt, drafted No. 2 overall by the Royals in the same draft as Volpe, is MLB’s No. 2 prospect, according to Law. Witt and Volpe were teammates – Witt played shortstop and Volpe second base – when Team USA’s 18U squad stormed to the 2018 Pan Am Games championship. Witt, Volpe and their teammates absolutely obliterated international pitching on the way to a lopsided tournament victory.
Volpe’s Yankees teammates, Oswaldo Perez, 22, and Jason Dominguez, 19, also earned designations in the Top 100. Perez, also a shortstop and one rung ahead of Volpe at Triple-A Scranton, is ranked No. 93 after an outstanding 2021 season. Dominguez was the Yankees No. 1 prospect a year ago before Volpe displaced him. The outfielder is ranked No. 78 in the Top 100, an amazing ranking for a 19 year-old.
Volpe’s ascendance has caused plenty of heads to turn his way, inside and outside the Yankees organization.
“He worked hard during the pandemic to add strength, and it’s evident now that he had a few plus tools all along, including his ability to hit and to play shortstop,” says Law. “He’s making better quality contact and is driving the ball at a better angle now too, while his understanding of the strike zone looks like it is elite.
“He’s almost certainly the reason the Yankees haven’t gone after one of the big shortstop free agents this winter, and I think they’re right. Volpe is going to be a star, and very soon at that.”