Just like that, the New York Yankees are back. Or, at least it feels that way, because all it took was getting some lefties in the lineup to balance things out. Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo were brought in to provide massive star power (Soto) and lengthen the bottom of the order (Verdugo).
And, speaking of the latter, one incumbent Yankee, who was already expected to take the next step in 2024, is perhaps going to have even higher expectations now that there's even more fearsome padding rather than excess fluff.
Anthony Volpe had himself a complicated rookie season, but in the end, it was hard to complain about it. He had barely any experience above the Double-A level and managed to finish with 21 homers and 24 stolen bases across 159 games (by far the most he's ever played in a full season). He also won the Gold Glove at shortstop.
As for the bad? He batted .209, OBP'ed .283 and slugged .383. None of those metrics are good enough. He walked 52 times and struck out 167 times. His entire Baseball Savant page is blue or very light red.
But again, the blame doesn't entirely fall on him. It was his first taste of MLB action. He was surrounded by incompetence, injuries and terrible energy. Come 2024, though? There's little excuse with Soto, Verdugo and a healthy Judge/Rizzo/LeMahieu in the fold.
Juan Soto trade puts pressure on Anthony Volpe to take the next step with Yankees in 2024
Volpe will more than likely be in the No. 9 spot given how the Yankees need to mix things up atop the order, especially with a heavy veteran presence. Though he profiles more as a leadoff hitter, part of the problem was manager Aaron Boone thrusting him into that role in 2023, further increasing pressure when it was unnecessary.
Now that there's a clearer picture, more stability, and a clean slate on the way, Volpe's development is more crucial than ever. Because if he can't take the necessary steps forward with these drastic improvements (his buddy Austin Wells in the fold, too!), then how can he be viewed as a franchise cornerstone? (Full disclosure, we're very much confident he will succeed.)
Yeah ... just not in that leadoff spot, Harold.
In some ways, there's less pressure because of the extra help that's been added, as well as the attention diverted away from him. In other ways? There's more pressure because the path to improvement has gotten more clear.
Either way, 2024 was shaping up to be a microscope year for Volpe. It'll be up to him how to view the new circumstances surrounding the Yankees.