Stats show Yankees' Anthony Volpe is already elite at one key metric

Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees / Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

A funny thing happened over the past few weeks as Yankees rookie Anthony Volpe fell into an early May slump: His troublesome hard-hit metrics began to quickly improve.

Volpe peaked with a .230 average following May 2's contest with the Guardians before running into a predictable buzzsaw against the ridiculous Rays. While his surface numbers dipped during a 4-for-32 slump, his quality of contact improved, leaving his exit velocity numbers well into the red and his expected slugging closer to the 50th percentile than ever.

One reason he's been able to maintain a respectable stat line despite an early-season adjustment period? He's done a phenomenal job of recognizing fastballs in fastball counts and ambushing them.

Anecdotally, it's been clear Volpe loves punishing the occasional "get me over" first-pitch fastball. He's been extremely adept at recognizing when a struggling pitcher is having control issues and is more likely to go to the heater early to try to reestablish his footing. Volpe's talent has also been evident with the bases loaded, when he's managed to go 3-for-3 with a dinger, 7 RBI and a walk in four plate appearances thus far.

He doesn't get eaten alive by velocity. In fact, he usually wins the battle. So far, Volpe has the third-highest run value against four-seam fastballs in MLB, behind only his teammate Anthony Rizzo, a pair of Red Sox stars, and veteran Charlie Blackmon (left field trade deadline fit, who says no?).

Yankees top prospect Anthony Volpe is out to ambush fastballs

We told you not to panic!

While occasionally it might feel prudent to at least give Volpe a breather and take the burden of the leadoff spot off his plate, it was clear based on his velocities and bad luck that this recent slump should, for all intents and purposes, reach its logical conclusion shortly.

If Volpe gets untracked and back into the doldrums after a period of solid contact marked by hard liners to the outfield and hotshot grounders, than that's a different conversation.

He's still got a little too much swing-and-miss in his game. He still struggles to get back on track when he, occasionally, swings over a hot fastball in his zone. But the overall trends suggest Volpe's value will continue to rise rather than require another adjustment period. And, if opposing pitchers want to continue giving him the heater and daring him to hit it, that wouldn't be so bad, either.