From Aaron Judge to hitting coach Sean Casey, the New York Yankees were relentlessly hopeful in the wake of the 2023 season that the .209-hitting Anthony Volpe fans saw in 2024 would swiftly become a thing of the past.
In order to make visions of an extended leap a reality, though, there's one adjustment the team must make to Volpe's approach. Even after chicken parm kicked in and he became a more complete hitter, this essential flaw still lingered.
September was the worst month of Volpe's season; his .163 average in Sept./Oct. was a far cry from the transformed hitter who posted an .805 OPS post-parm through Sept. 2. It seems likely fatigue is to blame for that end-of-year breakdown. The version of Volpe evaluators saw in the minors started slow, then surged through the summer. Due to the minor-league season's schedule breakdown, though, he never had to play a full September after peaking, always cut short before fatigue could set in.
Getting that extra month of strength training should ready Volpe for next season, even if taking those lumps looked supremely depressing. But his low average and occasional power outages won't fix themselves simply because he slogged through September and nabbed some extra reps. To hit his peak, he has to be less pull-happy in 2023. For reference, 46.7% of his batted balls were pulled, taking them away from Yankee Stadium's patented porch in the process. That's the 13th-highest rate in MLB this season, and simply isn't who Volpe was while climbing through the minors.
Yankees need Anthony Volpe to pull the ball to left field far less often in 2024
Volpe's rookie season wasn't devoid of positives. A rookie shortstop going 20-20, even in the Year of Acuña's Patented Bigger Bases, is nothing to sneeze at. He entered 2023 with significant defensive question marks, and will exit the season as the favorite to capture the Gold Glove at shortstop among the trio of finalists. That's a popularity contest, but he matched Carlos Correa in OAA, destroyed him in UZR and DRS, and overcame his arm strength deficiency in the process. Again, no sneezing necessary.
But Volpe took two-plus months to recover his minor-league plan of attack, an issue nobody involved with the big-league Yankees appeared to catch or be aware of. Late in the season, his stamina was zapped, which has to be a point of emphasis moving forward, too.
And that pull percentage has to drop. So many of Volpe's most impressive highlights came when he sent fastballs on the outer half careening towards right field, from his two-out, game-tying blast in Detroit to the three-run equalizer he drilled off the Red Sox (before umpires stole a likely win). A pull-happy Volpe can surpass 20 homers, but a Volpe who hits to all fields can make the Bobby Witt Jr. leap many foresee in 2024. Now, it's on Judge, Casey (maybe?), and the team's infrastructure to insist on changes.