New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa cannot get to the ball hit by Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena in first inning of Game 4 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York on October 23, 2022. (Photo by Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
With another home run Friday afternoon in a spring training game against the Minnesota Twins, Anthony Volpe is strengthening his case to make the New York Yankees roster out of camp.
Though Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the decision will come down to the very end of camp, there’s no argument that Volpe has been outstanding this spring, posting a .289 average with three home runs and five RBI in 45 at-bats.
The three-way battle for the shortstop job in the Bronx is between Volpe, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Oswald Peraza, but Volpe, a first round pick of the Yankees in the 2019 draft, is the potential shortstop of the future. A decision doesn’t have to be made until the morning of March 30, when teams must submit their final Opening Day rosters to Major League Baseball.
“Boonie and I will continue conversations, I can’t tell you when,“ Cashman told NJ.com several days ago. “We still have some time on the clock. We’ve had a good camp. A lot of good things to see. But we have time on the clock to make the final call.”
Kiner-Falefa, 28, is the oldest of the three, and played four seasons with the Texas Rangers and winning a Gold Glove in 2020 before being dealt to the Minnesota Twins last spring. The Twins then dealt him to the Yankees the next day along with Ben Rohrvedt and Josh Donaldson for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. While Kiner-Falefa put up good percentages at the dish, he’s lacking in power, with just 24 of his 126 hits last season going for extra bases.
Peraza, 22, appeared in 18 games with the Yankees last season, and showed a lot of potential during his September cameo in the Bronx, batting .306/.404/.429 in 49 at-bats with 15 hits, a home run and two RBI. As a member of the Yankees 40-man roster, he’s immediately eligible to be recalled to the Major Leagues and ineligible to be selected by another organization in the Rule 5 draft.
Volpe, the Yankees No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com who grew up in New Jersey and played high school baseball at Delbarton, has been among the favorite prospects of Yankees fans over the past two seasons as he rose through the organization, culminating with a 22-game run in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, where he batted .236/.313/.405. His numbers are better in Spring Training, where he’s hitting .289 with three home runs, including Friday’s two-run shot to center field against Minnesota. Volpe is not yet on the 40-man roster and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.
With five years of Major League experience, Kiner-Falefa will almost certainly have a role in the Bronx at the start of the season, and either or both of the kids, Volpe and Peraza, will find themselves riding the bus in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
This is not a bad thing – Kiner-Falefa’s experience and ability gives both Peraza and Volpe time to continue to gain experience in Triple-A, and when one or both of them is ready, they’re just two hours away in the Poconos.