ESPN insider thinks Anthony Volpe could close Yankees' gap with Astros
The shine coming off of Yankees camp is officially bright enough to be blinding national baseball insiders, too. Not just the local ones.
ESPN's Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian took some time on the Baseball Tonight podcast this week to discuss the Yankees' current shortstop drama -- well, not "drama," per se. The incumbent's unlikely to win the job on Opening Day. It's more "showcase" than drama, based on the way both Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe have been playing, and ESPN's baseball braintrust has come away impressed.
Kurkjian began the latest segment by claiming he'd be "comfortable" playing Kiner-Falefa 150 games in a season, calling him an "above-average" defensive shortstop. Needless to say, he seemed eager to move on, and had much higher praise for his competitors.
"The Peraza kid can really go, and I think he's ready to be the everyday shortstop on that team," he told Olney. "Anthony Volpe is really, really good," he continued, as Olney chimed in with, "Raking!" in the background.
Kurkjian then began to let the Volpe stories flow, stating, "His first live batting practice of spring training, I was told, was against Carlos Rodón. The first pitch, he hit over the batter's eye. The second pitch, he hit a home run to left field, and Rodón's out there going, 'Oh my God. Who is this kid?'" Even Josh Donaldson, according to Kurkjian, walked directly into Aaron Boone's office following Volpe's star turn in Dunedin and shouted, "Volpe!" What more needed to be said?
So, when can we start the timeline? Kurkjian was more bullish than Olney, enthusiastically reporting, "The Yankees will not be afraid to put that kid at shortstop on Opening Day if he's ready. If he rakes like this, and plays shortstop like this, and runs like this the entire spring training, he is the wild card that moves them way closer to the Astros."
Yankees can't back down if they start Anthony Volpe on Opening Day
When the floor was Olney's, he didn't counterpunch Kurkjian's opinion. He only reinforced the idea that Volpe has owned the preseason thus far, calling his makeup "off the charts" and saying that every executive who believed he might not develop enough size to make his offensive profile pop has been completely won over by the work he's done.
Olney didn't seem to believe there was a path to Volpe: Opening Day Shortstop barring some unforeseen change, but he did drop a nugget Yankee fans will love about that positional struggle.
"I walked away [from Yankees camp] basically having heard that Peraza's going to be the shortstop, unless something completely unforeseen's happened, with IKF potentially being on the bench at the start of the year. Maybe some team steps up and makes a trade for him. Volpe, probably, will start in the minor leagues."
"If you start with Volpe and he struggles at the start of the year, it's really tough to retreat."
That's true. But if the best thing Olney had to say about IKF was that he could "potentially" be a backup, that means the Yankees are in very good hands, no matter which direction they turn.