There Should Be No Reality Where Anthony Volpe Isn't The Yankees Starting Shortstop On Opening Day
Entering Spring Training this year the Yankees shortstop battle between their top prospects and a guy who the front office wants to believe can play the position sat firmly at the top of the priority list. Anthony Volpe vs. Oswald Peraza vs. IKF (but not really). Whatever happened there could not be a scenario where IKF was the team's starting shortstop on Opening Day next week. No more pretending he's a good defender over there. No more ignoring the talented young studs in the system ready to rock. If there was one thing I hoped for entering camp it was that the Yankees truly looked at this competition fairly and awarded the better player the job. It seems like I might have gotten my wish.
It's March 24th, less than a week away from the season beginning in the Bronx next Thursday, and one man has clearly seized the opportunity and taken the reins. He just so happened to have went lift off today against the Twins ace Pablo Lopez.
Anthony Volpe's homer earlier today should not be the deciding factor for him earning the job. No, instead it's just another moment that shows you he's ready to be the guy. Today he got the nod at home as the starting SS behind Gerrit Cole's final tuneup in Tampa and didn't blink. He hasn't blinked all camp and if you have two working eyes, which for some in those organization I question, he's the no brainer choice to get the call. All spring with a ton of pressure on his shoulders he's carried himself like a vet and fit right in. He's played more than solid defense while posting an OPS over .950. I'm not a fan of Spring Training stats, but right now in a position battle of young kids they help tell the story. Anytime you flip on the TV this month and see him out there you see a guy who belongs. Even just watching at bats where he doesn't get on base on typically impressive. His swing and the way he loads is top tier. You see a top prospect who gains nothing else from playing any longer in the minor leagues. The dude needs to be in The Bronx next week.
Promoting Volpe like this seems like the easy call for any other team, but the Yankees don't do this shit. They love to hold onto their prospects and keep them down in the minors for idiotic reasons whether it'd be service time manipulation, a logjam of shitty vets at the big league level, or simply not realizing that player deserves it. Volpe doesn't turn 22 years old until next month. Despite seeing the Braves and Astros reward their young guys constantly with promotions, it's very irregular for the Yankees to give the keys to a young prospect at this age. Anthony Volpe deserves to be that exception.
The Yankees didn't do a whole lot in the offseason to improve their offense. In fact you could argue they got worse by letting Andrew Benintendi walk. Yes, they brought back Judge and Rizzo which were musts, but other than that they're pretty much running it back. You know how you make this team better? You play the kids. If you start Anthony Volpe at shortstop on Opening Day you're making this team better. Does he make you better than the Astros by himself? Probably not, but he narrows the gap significantly from what you've been throwing out their recently at the shortstop position. You have to do this.
IKF hasn't started at SS in in three weeks which would lead you to believe he's out of the running, thankfully. The other worthy option for the gig is Oswald Peraza, ranked 52nd in MLB.com's top 100 prospects (Volpe is 5th) who came up late last year and looked all the part of a starting major league baseball player: .306/.404/.429 in 18 games. Peraza is probably the best defensive shortstop the Yankees have in their organization and he has a solid bat with good speed as well. Unfortunately for Peraza he hasn't had the best spring while Volpe has.
Boone oddly gave an honest opinion of what he's see so far from Oswald.
(MLB.com) “For the most part, he’s been all right. Yesterday, he didn’t have great at-bats. Working on a little, small mechanical thing. When he gets his load in the right way, he’s pretty good. He’s been OK. He’s been OK. He’s impacted a few balls. Yesterday was the first day where I didn’t feel like his at-bats were great. Otherwise, whether he gets a result or not, the at-bats are all right.”
While I'm not disagreeing with anything he said, it's weird to be like this for one of the team's top prospects, but ignore what you see out of sub-par vets like Aaron Hicks, IKF, and Josh Donaldson. Peraza gets the heat, but not them? Explain that to me. Boone has been rumored to be all-in on Volpe winning the job so I guess this is him tipping his hand? Still seemed harsh given everything I just said. Maybe they do all have dirt on him and Cashman.
So what happens with Peraza if Volpe wins the job? My educated guess is he starts the year in AAA. It sucks because he really doesn't need any more time down there. You saw what he could do last year at the big league level. He has tremendous skill and is deserving of the big stage. The problem is that Brian Cashman has created this logjam of infielders that prevent both Peraza and Volpe starting as it currently stands.
DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, and IKF make it impossible for both kids to play. If it were my call I'd DFA Donaldson and go from there. They were very open to the idea of trading Gleyber last summer so that doesn't feel like an impossible path to go down again, especially since they aren't going to extend him. IKF could be used as a utility guy off the bench, but doesn't Oswaldo Cabrera make him redundant and deficient? My point is that there's guys you can move easily to make room. As things stand now though, Peraza will likely start the year in AAA. I can live with that as long as Volpe is the starting shortstop. To me that would signal the front office finally got the hint in the way they should handle these sort of situations.
It's worth noting with the new CBA rules, you get rewarded for calling up your young guys like this.
Top prospects who finish 1st or 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting will receive a full year of service.
Clubs promoting top prospects to Opening Day rosters will be eligible to receive Draft picks if the player finishes in the Top 3 in the Rookie of the Year voting or Top 5 in MVP/Cy Young voting. (MLB)
So if the Yankees waited til May to promote Volpe because of service time, he could still wipe that away if he finished in the top 2 of ROY voting. The Yankees would also get a 1st round pick if he finished in the top 3. The incentive to call him up now and start him right away is clear as day. Make it happen and let's have some fun.
Myself, Carl, and RDT ran through the AL East in a nice little 20 minute preview show for Barstool Baseball. Enjoy.