Anthony Volpe’s development far ahead of schedule in key Yankees boon

Anthony Volpe has skipped a step. He has gone from talented but unrefined rookie to something that quickly — for want of a better term — is veteran in Year 2. 

“I feel like I’ve seen a handful of guys his age kind of do their thing, but not that quick,” Jose Trevino said. “He is responding to the game out there at a different level [from last year], he is responding to the adjustments he has made. From my seat, it is just so much fun to watch.” 

In a slog of a rubber match Sunday filled with walks and miscues, Volpe put up the equivalent of a triple-double. He had three hits. He stole two key bases. And for the second straight day — and second straight Yankees victory — he made the key defensive play as the Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 8-3

“What hasn’t he done?” Giancarlo Stanton said when asked what has impressed him about Volpe. “He’s been all over on defense. He’s hitting the ball all over the field. He is causing havoc on the bases for the other team.” 

Stanton delivered the biggest blow as the Yankees won a third straight series to open this season against a 2023 playoff team. I wondered in a column a few days ago just how long the Yankees could go with Stanton as his struggles from last year bled into this season with 13 strikeouts in 25 plate appearances. But he had three hits and a wall-scraper short-porch homer in a 9-8 triumph Saturday night and then a no-doubter grand slam to put the Yankees up 5-1 in the third inning Sunday. 

Anthony Volpe celebrates during the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays on April 7, 2024. Robert Sabo for NY Post

For the Yankees, part of just how good they are going to be revolves around how much the supporting cast to Aaron Judge and Juan Soto rises. Judge and Soto — health permitting — feel like givens to excel. But are these past few days a sign that Stanton really does have his lower half back strong and balanced and is ready to mash with them? 

Can Anthony Rizzo join that middle-of-the-lineup might? DJ LeMahieu was fielding and running on the field prior to Sunday’s game. Gleyber Torres is taking long at-bats without much to show for it yet. Alex Verdugo and Austin Wells are lefty bats, struggling so far early this season. 

But perhaps within all of this, there is no player quite as vital as Volpe. For what he means in 2024. And what he means moving forward. For what he means at the plate, but also with the potential to be the Yankees’ best all-around player. 

“He’s starting to look like that complete, well-rounded, really good player,” Aaron Boone said. 

Volpe had a rough rookie season at the plate, hitting .209 and striking out in 27.9 percent of his plate appearances. He dedicated himself in the offseason to flattening his swing to better get to upstairs fastballs while using the whole field. 

Last season, he pulled the ball in 45.6 percent of his at-bats when the ball was in play. It is 26.9 this year, as two of his three singles Sunday were poked to right field. He has struck out in just 18.1 percent of his plate appearances. He is hitting .424 with a 1.092 OPS through 10 games. 

Anthony Volpe scores during the Yankees’ win over the Blue Jays on April 7, 2024. Robert Sabo for NY Post

Within those 2023 difficulties, Volpe furthered already strong feelings about his work ethic and makeup within his clubhouse by winning a Gold Glove and stealing 24 bases. But even in those areas, there appears refinement, maturity, growth. Volpe’s backhand and force out at second of the Jurassic Daniel Vogelbach was essential in the Yankees not blowing all of what had been a 9-2 lead on Saturday. 

On Sunday, with the Yankees ahead 6-3, Volpe made a sensational sliding stop, and pop up to throw out Kevin Kiermaier to open the eighth, preventing the start of more potential late fire from the Blue Jays. Perhaps the best compliment you can give a defender is if you ask teammates who they would like to see the ball hit to in a huge spot. I think Volpe might win that Yankees vote right now. 

Also, by giving away so much of that big lead on Saturday, the Yankees were forced to use Ian Hamilton and Clay Holmes. Boone wanted to stay away from both Sunday. And Volpe helped make that possible. He led off the bottom of the eighth with an opposite-field bullet single, then stole second and third en route to scoring the first of two Yankees insurance runs in the frame that pushed the lead from 6-3 to 8-3. 

Anthony Volpe’s development is ahead of schedule. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

“Those little plays make a huge difference,” Holmes said. “That’s the next step for him — those game-changing moments where it impacts not just today’s game, but tomorrow’s game. That is when you become even more valuable to the team. And clearly he has that in him.” 

Volpe is a sophomore playing like a senior. He turns 23 in three weeks and in Year 2 has the feel of a veteran about him.

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