Shortly before the 2022 season started, it was posited the New York Yankees were perhaps placing too much pressure on top prospect Anthony Volpe because they were clearly leaving the shortstop position open with underwhelming talent to prepare for his eventual arrival.
New York made zero pre-lockout moves to address the infield despite the glaring voids/insufficiency and then passed on every top free agent option in favor of executing a trade for Isiah Kiner-Falefa in what was Brian Cashman’s “blockbuster” of the offseason.
That deal sent Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota with IKF and Josh Donaldson (and his $50 million) making their way over to the Bronx. The trade wasn’t necessary met with opposition … it was more confusion than anything.
This is the answer for a Yankees team that felt like it needed so much more after back-to-back embarrassing 2020 and 2021 campaigns? Um … apparently it was!
Kiner-Falefa has overall been good for a 1.0 bWAR (0.6 on offense and 0.4 on defense). He ranks fourth among shortstops (tied with Carlos Correa) for Defensive Runs Saved (+3) and second in Ultimate Zone Rating (2.2). He’s hitting .300 with a 116 OPS+. He’s yet to go yard, but his 14 runs scored, seven RBI and two stolen bases have been about as impactful as you can imagine at the bottom of the lineup.
On top of all of that lifting the Yankees to the best record in MLB, IKF’s performance is taking the spotlight off Volpe, who … isn’t exactly blowing the competition away at Double-A Somerset.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is taking pressure off Yankees top prospect Anthony Volpe
Public Service Announcement: This is NOT a knock on Volpe! The newly-turned 21-year-old has played in just 162 career minor league games dating back to 2019 (the year he was drafted in the first round). His overall numbers are still unbelievable, but it’s evident he may need more refining in the minors … which is totally reasonable and justified.
Through 20 games at Double-A, Volpe is hitting just .194 with a .726 OPS and 24 strikeouts … though his 16 runs scored, 14 RBI and eight stolen bases are big reasons for encouragement. But could you imagine if, like Andrelton Simmons was playing a bad shortstop for the Yankees right now? The fans would be losing their minds with the Volpe countdown at the forefront of social media.
Perhaps it’s better to let Volpe go through the motions and take his journey one step at a time so he’s as ready as he can possibly be for his eventual MLB debut. He doesn’t need to be under a microscope during his debut at Double-A in his second true pro season.
Keep enjoying Kiner-Falefa’s hustle, aggression and poise while Volpe makes his way through the farm system. If he needs extra time down there, so what? IKF is signed through 2023, and Volpe potentially debuting at the age of 23 in 2024 would pretty much be par for the course.
The expectations were already set far too high, so we should be treating a possible early arrival from Volpe as a bonus, not as the norm.