The New York Yankees' starting shortstop to begin the 2023 MLB season was supposed to be Isiah Kiner-Falefa, unless one of their prized prospects could bang down the door ealier.
Once that happened, it was supposed to be Oswald Peraza, who forced his way to the big leagues and got an ALCS start at the end of the 2022 season. This was fated to be his year to shine, as long as the unforeseen didn't happen this spring, forcing the ball back into Kiner-Falefa's court.
Against all odds, wunderkind Anthony Volpe went and stole that job from both of them.
The Yankees bucked the trend spectacularly on Sunday, choosing the 21-year-old Volpe to start at shortstop on Opening Day -- and, hopefully, well beyond. For years, pundits have declared that, as special as Volpe's bat seems, he would be forced to cede the position to Peraza before even being promoted, and wouldn't fit in the bigs until there was room at second base. New York's brass have decided his spring was too ferocious to entertain such a delay.
Volpe will be the youngest player to start for the Yankees at any position on Opening Day since his idol Derek Jeter in 1996. Per Sarah Langs, he will be the fifth-youngest Yankee to ever make his MLB debut on Opening Day, joining the likes of Mickey Mantle and Joe Pepitone. Predictably, given the Yankees' aversion to such moves and Volpe's lifelong fandom, the video of Aaron Boone delivering the news (with a few trademark swerves along the way) is equal parts heartwarming and shocking. They actually did it.
Yankees Opening Day shortstop: Anthony Volpe
How well-hidden was the camera this time around? Was that Hal Steinbrenner balancing it on his knee? Either way, Volpe didn't seem to notice, and Boone did a pitch-perfect job of selling the fakeout -- probably because, up until a few days ago, it was exactly what he'd actually intended to say to Volpe. That's typically how the Yankees do things, after all.
After the private meeting was over (you know, the private meeting the team quickly released to the public), Volpe headed to the dugout to greet family members and confirm the good news.
In fact, this hugging session and eventual happy on-field photograph with his family is how we learned this Volpe promotion could be for real; Bryan Hoch broke the insider hug news, and the real thing dropped minutes later.
When Volpe was selected as the Yankees' first-round pick pre-pandemic in 2019, it wasn't clear what his destiny was. It seemed the Yankees had grabbed another high-character, good-field shortstop who played high school ball in the shadow of Jack Leiter, but it turned out they knew far more than the masses did.
Volpe developed into a monster at the plate, in the field, and on the bases in 2021, and sustained his status as a consensus top-15 prospect through 2022, when he became the first minor-leaguer to post a 20-homer/50-steal season since Andruw Jones in the mid-90s.
Of course, long before he did all that, he was a kid. A kid in the upper deck at Yankee Stadium idolizing No. 2.
There are a lot of Anthony Volpes out there. Very few of them get to play shortstop for the New York Yankees. And even fewer get that chance on Opening Day.
Good luck, kid. But you won't need it.