Maybe we should have known when we saw Anthony Volpe hit a two-run bomb in the first inning of the 2019 NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship game.
Perhaps we should have just trusted Volpe to simply get it done like he had at every level since he was an 11 year-old Diamond Jack at Diamond Nation or a 12 year-old starring for Team USA in Chinese Taipei in 2013. Or when he and Bobby Witt, Jr., the Royals No. 1 prospect, guided 18U Team USA to one lopsided victory after another at the 2018 Pan Am Games in Panama.
Despite being selected by the Yankees as the No. 30th overall pick in the 2019 Major League Draft, Volpe had been a bit undersold by scouts, many of whom admit as much. An outstanding all around player with incredible instincts for the game, there was always concern Volpe may be short in the area of power.
Then the 20 year-old went out and hit 27 home runs this summer in minor league stops at Single-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley. Volpe, in fact, had such a remarkable 2021 season it is not unusual now to hear such statements uttered recently by MLB.com draft analyst Jim Callis in a story written by Anthony McCarron for Yahoo Sports.
“If (the Yankees) sign Correa, by the end of 2023 he could be playing third, Volpe could be at second and (Oswald) Peraza at short.”
Volpe was not expected to hit 27 home runs in a single minor league season, so that’s where the attention fell. But 2021 was a typically thoroughly all-around efficient season for the Delbarton High grad whether you were looking at his game at the plate or at shortstop. His performance would elevate him to the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and Major League Baseball’s No. 15 overall prospect.
Volpe batted .294 with 121 hits in 412 at bats (109 games), ripped 35 doubles, six triples, 27 HR, drove in 86 runs, stole 33 bases in 42 attempts and drew 78 walks.
“There’s a lot of David Wright in him, ” one scout told McCarron. “I love a guy like Volpe who plays with his heart. Always doing something, enjoys playing the game. I think it’s going to be something fun to watch. Who knows where it goes.”
Another scout raved about Volpe’s well-developed knowledge of the strike zone, according to McCarron.
“Once I saw how well he was controlling the zone, I was like, ‘Oh boy.’ Controlling the strike zone is a finishing-type thing for a guy. The way he did it this year was impressive.”
Volpe’s big offensive numbers translated to a gaudy .423 on-base percentage, a .604 slugging percentage for an OPS of 1.027.
Volpe won’t turn 21 until April 28, so there is no need to rush things. Although, it is Volpe’s game that seems to be in the biggest hurry to join stronger and deeper competition. Expect him to begin 2022 with the Double-A Somerset Patriots. Won’t that be fun for the local New Jersey fans and for his friends and family so close by?
“I don’t think even the Yankees expected 27 home runs in his first full season,” said Callis. “He always had an aptitude for the game. He used the down time (during the pandemic) to get stronger and he started driving the ball more. He’s a different guy. Now you’re looking at someone who could give you 20 home runs or more in the big leagues. He’s a pretty dynamic player.”
As the Yankees consider big name free agents for their shortstop position and Peraza, a bit ahead of Volpe at this point, moves in as the Triple-A shortstop and, presumably, a soon-to-be major leaguer, expect Volpe to keep his head down, his feet grounded and his work ethic at the highest level. We’ve never seen anything different from him here.