Anthony Volpe’s new approach in Year 2 was foretold as loudly as his rookie arrival, but so far, the second prophecy looks more reliable than the first. We examine why.

Who would have ever thought that in the early days of the season, it would be Anthony Volpe joining Juan Soto in a dynamic, lineup-driving duo for the New York Yankees?

The young shortstop’s sophomore transformation at the plate was foretold nearly as loudly as his rookie arrival, but so far, the second prophecy looks more reliable than the first.

Even after going hitless in Wednesday’s 6-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, Volpe is sporting a well above-average 129 raw value+ (RV+) thanks to a .324 batting average, .410 on-base percentage and .471 slugging percentage to go along with vastly improved walk and strikeout rates for a Yankees team that sits atop the AL East standings at 13-6.

That’s a stark contrast from his 2023 debut. Though Volpe settled in nicely on defense (winning a Gold Glove) and on the bases (logging 24 steals; caught stealing five times) during his rookie year, his bat floundered.

A pull-power approach in the spirit of Justin Turner or Jose Ramirez never clicked against advanced pitching. Scouting reports about Volpe’s mature approach and bat-to-ball ability drifted into the rearview mirror as he got his 21 homers and 60 RBIs, but only scratched out a .209 AVG/.283 OBP/.383 SLG line, sliding in below average at a 97 RV+ overall.

Optimism began bubbling up around Volpe again this spring, when he showed off a revamped swing path that flattened out his power-focused but whiff-prone uppercut. His April triumphs are rightly being tallied as profits from that change, but there are other intertwined factors that may ultimately determine Volpe’s rate of return over a full season.

In addition to reshaping his swing, Volpe has made dramatic alterations to his approach, an area of the game that is helpful because of how quickly we can begin to decipher meaningful information.

So to envision how the new Volpe might look once the small sample fireworks give way to the slow burn of a season, let’s ask some key questions.

What Is He Swinging At?

The first thing you’ll notice about Volpe’s plate discipline numbers is that he’s swinging less often across the board. Only 16 qualified hitters are running a lower swing rate than Volpe’s 40.2%, which is sharply down from his league-average 47.9% swing rate in 2023.

Much of that discrepancy springs from spitting on breaking balls. After swinging at 46.9% of them in 2023, he had laid off all but 31.7% in 2024. The bendy pitches that keep rising in prevalence in the majors were a major bugaboo for Volpe as a rookie. He logged subpar numbers against virtually every type of breaking ball – a 71 RV+ against sliders from right-handed pitchers, a 62 RV+ against righty curveballs, and a dreadful 27 RV+ against lefty sliders.

Worse, he wound up with his back against the wall in a lot of his plate appearances, consigned to decide his fate on those pitches. In 2023, 33.2% of his plate appearances concluded with breaking balls, and 30.0% of those were strikeouts. So far in 2024, 25.3% of his plate appearances have ended on breaking balls, but only one of those has been a strikeout.

Volpe has decisively laid off early pitches – only six qualified hitters swing at the first pitch less often (12.8% in 2024 compared to 28.8% in 2023) – and displayed confidence in his contact ability to hunt pitches he wants to hit, not just any potential strike.

What Is the Intent on His Swings?

During spring training, Volpe made a telling remark to The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner. He referenced some of his most successful veteran teammates, including three-time All-Stars Soto and DJ LeMahieu, saying, “I think what makes the best hitters the best is they give themselves the most room for error and the most flexibility.”

The swing path he was using in 2023 was steeper, yes, but what often goes unmentioned is that a power-focused swing goes hand-in-hand with an early swing. Hitters whose top priority is pulling the ball in the air are aiming to make contact with the ball in front of the plate.

In the majors, against the world’s hardest throwers, Volpe had to gear up for high velocities. That diminished his ability to use his batting eye and and made him especially vulnerable against the aforementioned breaking balls.

His numbers against fastballs weren’t awful, just all-or-nothing in shape – slugged .477 against fastballs in 2023, and is currently slugging .421 against them during this torrid start. What has changed is his capability to adjust to everything else. Last year, that led to a penchant to either swing over breaking stuff and have poor results on the breaking balls he did manage to put in play.

He overwhelmingly pulled them into virtually hopeless grounders or pop-ups.

When Volpe mentioned room for error and flexibility, it showed he was directly addressing this issue.

“He had started the process of trying to make sure he got into the zone early, make sure he stayed in the zone long, didn’t worry so much about lifting the ball. He started thinking more about low line drives or backspin, and really driving the ball,” first-year Yankees hitting coach James Rowson told “That swing path really works for him, because it allows him to use the whole field and take advantage of all his skills.”

Volpe’s production will look as different as the swing. Yes, it’s early and a small sample size, but his contact+ on right-handed sliders is up from 99 to 101, right-handed curveballs up from 104 to 109 and right-handed sweepers up from 107 to 131. He is equipped to stay back and give himself a chance against breaking balls in key moments, such as two-strike counts. Overall, his contact rate is 10th in baseball at 86.7%, and his zone-contact rate is ninth in MLB at 95.4%, good for the sixth-best contact+ mark at 112.

Achieving those marks might mean fewer home run swings, but Volpe is giving himself a chance at more base hits by allowing the ball to travel deeper in the zone. His pull rate is down from 57.8% in 2023 to 37.0% in 2024, while his average exit velocity is up from 88.7 mph to 91.2 mph.

This particular loping liner on a close full-count slider didn’t fall in, but a much better percentage of similar efforts (like the one below) are paying off, while attempting to rip those pitches into the left field bleachers was a compromise that didn’t carry much benefit for Volpe.

How Will Pitchers Counter?

As the league takes note of Volpe’s metamorphosis, opposing arms will attack him differently.

For one, Volpe’s newfound patience will lead to burgeoning aggression. Only New York Mets infielder Jeff McNeil had started at-bats with a first-pitch strike less often than Volpe heading into play on Wednesday. He’s a classic candidate for the get-me-over breaking ball to accumulate easy strikes.

He is already beginning to see more fastballs. That’s a case where pitchers are, to use a football term, taking what the opponent gives them. If Volpe is staying back and eschewing swings for the fences, the pitchers will challenge him, reasoning that there is relatively little downside.

Eleven of Volpe’s 20 hits (55%) have been liners or grounders to the opposite field, which is part of the reason he has a merely average 102 BIP+ amid his big numbers. It’s a style of hitting you might associate with Luis Arraez or Steven Kwan, two of the hitters most likely to see fastballs in the zone.

For Volpe, that’s an opportunity. He has proven such strong baserunning instincts that he is likely to convert plenty of singles into stolen bases and scoring chances.

Volpe, who had a career-high four hits against the Diamondbacks on April 1, also possesses the capability to swing with more pop than those singles mavens – his 90th-percentile exit velocity this season is a solid, if unspectacular 103.9 mph, while Arraez and Kwan ring in below 100 mph with even their punchiest swings.

Such a sudden and fully formed turnabout speaks, more than anything, to Volpe’s capacity for shaping his game. Contact rates and discipline this strong are not often fluky even in small samples.

This red-hot run won’t sustain itself indefinitely, but the contact-first approach should provide a more stable base from which Volpe can perform that most important of major league tasks – adjusting.

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