Around this time last year, Anthony Volpe was gearing up to try to win the Yankees’ starting shortstop job at spring training.
A 20/20 season, Gold Glove award and fair share of growing pains later, Volpe is preparing for what he hopes is a more consistent sophomore campaign.
“I think just taking some of the strengths of my game and trying to make those more consistent,” Volpe said Saturday at the “Pinstripe Pride” autograph signing event at American Dream in New Jersey. “With that, ironing out some of the things that can set me up for as much success as I expect.”
After showing flashes of his high-end potential during an up-and-down rookie season, which he played most of at the age of 22, Volpe has the chance to take a big step forward this season with a year of major league experience under his belt.
Throughout the past year, the Yankees have praised Volpe’s baseball IQ and ability to make adjustments, which will be key in using what he learned during some of his struggles last season to build off his rookie year.
“I obviously learned a ton last year about everything,” Volpe said. “So we’ve been going to work down [in Tampa].”
By plenty of factors, Volpe’s debut season was encouraging. He became the first rookie in franchise history to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 20 bases while also becoming the first rookie in franchise history to win a Gold Glove — at shortstop, no less.
But the New Jersey product also fell short in other areas, batting just .209 with a .666 OPS and 167 strikeouts across 159 games.
He had stretches where he appeared to find his groove at the plate — August was arguably his best month of the season — only for pitchers to adjust back to him and send him into a slump as he closed out the year with a tough September (which was also the end of the longest year of his pro career).
“Just [working on] different things I felt like I did well and didn’t do well with consistency and stuff like that,” Volpe said. “Trying to use all the resources and the organization, everyone helping out to help everyone improve.”
After Volpe decisively beat out Oswald Peraza and Isiah Kiner-Falefa for the starting job last spring, the Yankees let him know that they were committed to him at shortstop “for better or for worse,” as GM Brian Cashman put it.
Now, they are banking on Volpe’s benefitting from being able to play through the successes and failures at the highest level to continue his development.
Like he did last year, Volpe has gotten a head start on spring training, already working out at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa with a sizable group of players before pitchers and catchers report Feb. 14 and position players Feb. 19.
With the Yankees coming off a disappointing 82-80 season, there has been an increased level of motivation to make sure this year goes differently.
“We’ve all been down there for probably about a month now, so everyone’s primed up ready to go,” Volpe said. “We want to hit the ground running.”
The Yankees will do so with Juan Soto in tow, a major boost to the lineup — even if the package of players it took to land him from the Padres in December hurt on a personal level as Volpe was with Kyle Higashioka (now a Padre) in Arizona when the trade went down.
“It was bittersweet for sure,” Volpe said. “But all in all, at the end of the day, it’s great opportunities. Going forward, I know I’m really excited.”