Volpe's new path paving the way to success

April 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Bryan Hoch’s Yankees Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It was about eight weeks ago that the changes in Anthony Volpe’s swing first landed on Aaron Boone’s radar. As the Yankees' manager surveyed a batting practice group at the club’s Minor League training facility, he was thrilled to see the ball jumping off his shortstop’s bat again, proof of hours spent fine-tuning over the winter.

“I can picture walking over there and seeing him in the cage, right away seeing a different kind of path,” Boone recalled on Sunday. “You saw the adjustment that he worked on all winter right away in the cage. It has just continued to manifest itself as you’ve seen him in his work, in his spring games and now to start the season.”

While Juan Soto and Oswaldo Cabrera garnered most of the offensive headlines during the Yankees’ season-opening series against the Astros, Volpe is also off to a strong start. The 22-year-old sophomore lashed four hits in his first 10 at-bats (.400), including a solo homer on Saturday, before missing Sunday’s series finale with an upset stomach.

“I feel like I’m setting myself up better for success,” Volpe said. “When I feel like I’m doing that, everything will take care of itself. Knowing that I’m always putting myself in positions to succeed, it definitely feels a lot better.”

One of the most encouraging developments regarding Volpe has been his improving eye. Volpe worked a career-high three walks on Opening Day, refusing to bite as the Astros attempted to exploit his supposed tendency to chase pitches out of the zone.

Of the 25 pitches Volpe saw on Opening Day, he swung at four, missing none. That trend continued over the next two games, as Volpe saw 45 pitches, swinging 16 times and whiffing just twice. Despite the small sample size, Boone believes Volpe “looks like a way better hitter, period.”

“I think it’s definitely the swing adjustments he’s made -- certainly, his experience, his aptitude and baseball IQ,” Boone said. “But swing-and-miss was an issue for him last year. You can clearly see that he’s worked hard to plug some holes that the league exposed a little bit at times last year.”

Volpe hit 21 homers and stole 24 bases during his rookie campaign in 2023, a season that saw him win the American League’s Gold Glove Award at shortstop. But he vowed to improve after batting just .209 with a .283 on-base percentage -- stats that ranked near the bottom of the league among all qualified hitters. Volpe’s 167 strikeouts in 541 at-bats also can be reduced.

Upon arriving at the Yankees’ complex in January, new hitting coach James Rowson said he could already tell Volpe had made important changes.

“He had started his [work] previous to us getting together,” Rowson said. “He had an idea. He looked at the end of the year and went into his offseason knowing what he wanted to work on, so credit to him for that. We just kept going with it.

“He had started the process of trying to make sure he got into the zone early, make sure he stayed in the zone long, didn’t worry so much about lifting the ball. He started thinking more about low line drives or backspin, and really driving the ball.

“That swing path really works for him, because it allows him to use the whole field and take advantage of all his skills.”

Volpe said that his early success has shown that he is on the right track. Now that things are clicking, he plans to keep grinding on those same touchpoints.

“For me, it’s just day by day,” Volpe said. “What I will say is nice is, I feel like we’re working on the right things. When it’s like that, you just keep stacking days and I feel like the results will come.”