Perhaps the hottest position battle happening in all Spring Training camps right now is for the Opening Day starting shortstop role for the New York Yankees. The 2023 fantasy baseball seems to have no shortage of elite shortstop options throughout drafts, but rookie Anthony Volpe is making a strong case that he belongs among the shortstop options fantasy managers should consider for 2023.

Not only is Volpe battling against a potential roster crunch for Opening Day, but he is also battling against Oswald Peraza who was the presumed leader for the position when Spring Training began. Now it would seem they are neck-and-neck and the next week and a half will determine who breaks camp with the big club. 


Volpe’s Minor League Track Record is Elite

Anthony Volpe, a 5’11’, 180-pound uber-athlete out of New Jersey was drafted straight out of high school in 2019. Now just shy of his 22nd birthday, he has shown in his minor league career that he can quickly excel at almost every stop along the way. He has been fast-tracked ever since his selection, so the question now becomes can he handle the Derek Jeter shadow at such a young age?

Even after a very brief stint in the Rookie League and not being able to play at all in 2020, Volpe has been able to master every level the Yankees have placed him. In his 275 career minor league games, Volpe has slashed .263/.376/.505 with 50 career home runs and 89 career RBI. In just 110 games in Double-A in 2022, Volpe had an .820 OPS plus 18 home runs and a crazy 44 steals. 

Across both Double-A and Triple-A in 2022, Volpe amassed 21 home runs and 50 stolen bases in just 132 games as a 21-year-old. His speed would bring a new offensive dimension to an aging Yankees team that frequently bats slow guys like D.J. LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton near the top of the order. Imagine a newer version of a Jacoby-Ellisbury-in-his-prime type batter in the Yankees lineup who gets on base at an elite clip and is a threat to steal every time, especially considering the new base sizes and pick-off rules. 

Volpe had an on-base percentage of at least .348 in every level before Triple-A, so the walks and the plate discipline are for real. 

Volpe Having a Monster 2023 Spring Training

Simply put, Volpe has just been much, much better than Oswald Peraza this spring. Among all qualified batters, Volpe has the fifth-highest OPS this preseason (.990) and is slashing .297/.422/.568 across his 13 games played. 

Peraza, on the other hand, is slashing .214/.353/.393 in 11 games. While the on-base percentage is very respectable, the contact rate and power have not shown up this spring. Volpe has played more innings than Peraza, received more plate appearances, and is starting to get some vocal encouragement from guys like Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge.

Judge, now the Yankees’ captain and who has the most important voice in these types of decisions among the players, recently came out and said (via Bryan Hoch on Twitter) “My thing has always been, if you’re the best player, it shouldn’t matter your age. You should be up helping the New York Yankees." If that’s not the most unsubtle endorsement of a player, then I don’t know what is. 

The Yankees have notoriously (and detrimentally) in the past kept players out of the lineup who could have helped them win because of some archaic they-have-to-pay-their-dues type of thinking. But if your MVP is saying Volpe should be playing despite the fact he hasn’t yet turned 22 years old, there is something there for the Yankees to consider. 

Will there be growing pains in the early going? Certainly. Very rarely does a rookie immediately and unfailingly dominate the league when he comes up (especially at 21 or 22), but if the local kid is special – and his two homers, four doubles, and four steals in 13 games say he is – then he deserves a shot. 

Volpe and Peraza Play the ADP Game

Back before Spring Training began and Peraza was the presumed starter, there was a pretty clear pecking order between the two young Yankees in NFBC drafts. In drafts conducted between January 1 and February 28th, Peraza was taken around pick 305 as the 27th shortstop off the board. Volpe was SS31 taken at pick 390. It was a clear hedge among some who believed the Volpe would be up with the big club soon and could grab him at the very end of drafts and stash for a few weeks. 

But in drafts since March 1, this happened:

Volpe has caught Peraza in the shortstop draft position and they are now being drafted literally right next to each other. Peraza is going at pick 285.99 and Volpe is going at pick 286.19. That’s more than 100 spots higher than Volpe was drafted in January and February as his spring play is leading many to believe he will win this job outright. 

With less than 10 days until Opening Day, the Yankees undoubtedly have a tough decision on their hands. Peraza is a nice prospect in his own right, but the consensus is he is no Volpe. 

Even with his own hashtag leading his cause (#VolpeningDay), the Yankees still might play the service time game and keep the rookie down for another few weeks. That decision can be debated, but what can’t be debated is that Volpe looks ready to contribute right now and should be a part of our fantasy plans around pick 275-300 in drafts. 

Be prepared for that number to shoot up another 100 picks if he is given the job soon. 


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