Rob Manfred reoponed old wounds when he announced that the Yankees selected Anthony Volpe, a high school shortstop, with their top pick. The organization has taken prep shortstops with their first selection in the past, and though it couldn’t have gone any better with Derek Jeter, more recent busts like CJ Henry and Cito Culver immediately come to mind.
Of course, drafts of years past have nothing to do with the caliber of player Volpe is. There’s an understandable frustration about the lack of success most of the club’s first rounders have had over the last decade or so, but perhaps Volpe can make a difference. I’m no expert, and won’t pretend to be, so let me present you with what others opine on him. I’ll leave you with my take on the pick at the end, but take it with a heaping grain of salt.
A local product from New Jersey, Volpe just graduated from Delbarton High School in Morristown where he was teammates with Jack Leiter. Volpe is young for his class, having just turned 18 in April. There are often concerns about drafting older prep players, but that’s not the case for Volpe.
As you’d expect, Volpe had a prolific senior year at Delbarton, though the school’s campaign isn’t done just yet. The team is playing for the NJSIAA Non-Public A title this afternoon.
Some basics on Volpe: he hits and throws right-handed. Though the Yankees drafted him as a shortstop, he does have some experience at second base as well. He’s not a big guy, standing at 5-11 and 180 pounds.
Along with his teammate Leiter, Volpe is committed to play college ball at Vanderbilt. Considering the stature of Commodores’ program, the Yankees must feel confident that they can convince Volpe to go pro.
Lastly, as a bonus, it sure looks like Volpe is a Yankees fan:
DIDI????— Anthony Volpe (@Volpe_Anthony) October 4, 2017
What the scouts say
Before we get to thoughts from independent publications, here’s what the Yankees’ vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer had to say:
We like a lot about him, he’s going to be a shortstop: the guy can hit, he can run, he’s got plus actions, he’s got really good hands, and he’s got a shortstop’s arm. He’s got tools. He’s been on the big stage with the USA national teams, so he’s got performance, and with a deluxe make-up, the kid brings it every day.
There’s a bit to unpack from that quote, which I’ll get to in a moment. Let’s dive into his on-field abilities first.
Offensively, it doesn’t sound like Volpe will ever be much of a power threat. Given his stature, that’s not a big surprise. However, he’s already earned praise for his approach at the plate and ability to put the bat on the ball. Granted, that’s against high school competition in the northeast, but positive nonetheless.
While Volpe’s hitting potential doesn’t sound like much, his defensive tools stand out. Fangraphs called him “the steadiest defender in the class” and “likely to be a plus shortstop defender”. They already assigned him a present 50 fielding and present 55 arm, which is impressive for a high schooler. Baseball America more or less agrees with Fangraphs’ opinion, though the site did note that he lacks elite arm strength. BA’s comment on his arm contradicts Oppenheimer’s assessment.
On-field skills aside, it’s pretty clear the Yankees love Volpe’s makeup. Oppenheimer made that pretty clear and so did MLB Pipeline:
Volpe is the kind of player who grows on evaluators the more they see him, with his whole being greater than the sum of his parts. He gets an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale for his makeup and work ethic.
There’s no question that the Yankees emphasize character in their scouting ranks. We’ve heard very similar things said about numerous draftees in recent years, so it’s no surprise that we’re hearing the same in this instance.
Will he sign?
The slot amount for the 30th pick is $2,365,500, but Volpe will get more than that if he signs. Why? His commitment to a big time college program gives him some leverage. The Yankees have gone on a run of college selections after the first round, ostensibly to divert savings from those choices to the team’s first rounder.
If there was any consternation about Volpe’s signability, allow his high school head coach, Bruce Shatel, to assuage those concerns:
Anthony loves the game so much, he was willing to sacrifice the Vanderbilt education and college experience and just play baseball everyday.
Sheesh, talk about a dead giveaway. Look, nothing is official until the ink is dry, but that was more or less an admission that Volpe is going to sign. The only question now is: for how much money?
There’s a good chance that the Yankees knew they’d be able to sign Volpe, by the way. Though it’s technically against the rules, the two sides could have come to a pre-draft agreement which essentially gave the Yankees the go ahead to select him.
If Volpe can pick it at short as scouts seem to indicate, he should be able to carve out at least a utility infielder role. That’s valuable! Still, it’s not an overly exciting outcome for a first rounder.
Obviously, the Yankees expect more out of Volpe than a future role player, especially considering the glowing reviews of his character. My guess is that they think his makeup gives him a better chance at maximizing his potential, most importantly his hitting ability. That definitely is his make or break tool that the team is banking on.
Personally, I preferred louder tools, but that doesn’t make Volpe a bad choice. Based on what I read, I liked Kameron Misner, a powerful left-handed outfielder from Missouri. He was still available at 30, but what do I know.