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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Minor League Assignments And The Volpe Turnaround!


I was almost in a good mood about the Yankees...and then last night happened. I'm frankly at a loss for words. If it were just the fact that Sevy had a bad night and the offense disappeared again, I think I could have handled it a bit better, but that's not how it went. The Yankees looked worse than a tee ball team out there. Bad routes to fly balls; missed cut-off men; bobbled balls both on catches and transfers; lack of communication; and just generally awful baseball. What's sad is that from the perspective of fundamentals, this is nothing new. The hallmark of the Aaron Boone era in Yankee history are teams that are not sound fundamentally in any area of the game despite the pedigree of the players on the field.


I said after another truly awful loss a short time ago that I don't understand how Boone and certain members of the coaching staff keep their jobs when the lack of attention to details is so blatant. Nothing happened, and as fans, we get treated to nights like last night. Thanks, Hal.


I haven't even gotten to Severino yet, another development that has made me terribly sad...I'll have more about that in a separate article. The glimmer of light there is that I think the issue is twofold: mechanical and mental, meaning that I think the stuff is still there. Again, a matter for another day.


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll answer some questions about minor league assignments and rate how much we believe in the Anthony Volpe turnaround! Let's get at it:


Alan asks: Why don't the Yankees have their positional prospects play secondary positions regularly in the minors? What more does Florial have to do to get a ML chance? 3 games at a time once a year for a few seasons doesn't equal a chance to me?


I couldn't agree more with Alan's assertion that the Yankees don't do enough to increase positional versatility for their young position players, and this is particularly true of guys below AA. In no scenario was this clearer than the Yankees' three best middle infield prospects: Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe. Let's look at all three individually:

  • Cabrera was a solid bet to become a utility guy, and most scouts' 90th percentile outcome for Cabrera was as a better than league average hitter who could be a semi-regular due to positional versatility. The book on Cabrera was clear, yet the Yankees were only willing to move him between 2B, 3B, and SS prior to his first big league appearance in 2022...and he basically became a regular outfielder. Now, it turns out that he's an excellent outfield defender, but on the occasion he makes mistakes, it's an issue of experience. The Yankees should have started moving him all over the field prior to his 2022 second half call-up to the Majors.

  • Peraza is a no-doubt SS, but the Yankees have clearly been keeping that seat warm for Volpe for at least 2 seasons. Given that fact, one would think that Peraza would have gotten more exposure at 2B more than 10 times last season in AAA. More to the point, given the Yankees' struggles at 3B, it makes no sense that Peraza has gotten just 2 games there at AAA in 2023.

  • Anthony Volpe has played 18 innings at 2B and 27 innings at 3B in his entire minor league career. Now, if the Yankees really believe Volpe is the next Jeter, fine, but they better be right. The fringiest part of Volpe's profile is his arm, which could knock him off of SS when his range slips a bit. Why wouldn't he have more minor league experience to draw on if and when that happens?

The same can be said for multiple players in the system, including outfielders who have only played RF, but not LF, or centerfielders who haven't played in the corners. Given the holes throughout the roster, this is a huge mistake on the Yankees' part.


Now, as for the second part of the question...Florial is a completely separate case. Florial produced huge numbers in 2017 split between A and A+. While his batting average was good, all that glittered wasn't gold: he ran very high strikeout rates and basically every scouting service publicly available noted that Florial had almost no ability to recognize breaking and off-speed pitches out of the hand, which meant the strikeout issues would only get worse as he climbed the ladder. Meanwhile, the NY media ran crazy with Florial's story, and fan sites started putting him at the top of prospect lists.


Those of you who go back as far as 2017 with sites like this one (admittedly, in its previous iteration as It's About The Money) know that I was never particularly keen on Florial's prospects. I thought the best outcome for Florial would mirror someone like Dom Brown, who had one big season for the Phillies, and then everyone realized he couldn't hit a breaking ball. To me, that was the best case scenario, one I didn't see as particularly likely.


The Yankees did make a huge mistake, though: they should have splashed cold water on their face and dealt Florial for whatever the best package was. After coming up just short in 2017, the Yankees were primed to win with a young core. A package built around Florial probably would have brought back some useful talent that could have helped in 2018 and beyond.


Instead, Florial broke his wrist in 2018, continued to have wrist injuries in 2019, and combined with the pandemic, lost the better part of 3 seasons of development...oh, and the rest of the league figured out that Florial had pitch recognition issues.


Florial continues to run 30+% strikeout rates at AAA, despite his gaudy numbers (which aren't quite as impressive when you understand that numbers across AAA are up like crazy). It is telling that no team picked him up when he was placed on waivers at the end of Spring Training, a time when everyone is swapping fringe 40-man roster talent.


I feel for all of the development time Florial lost to injuries, but the problem isn't that the Yankees haven't called him up; it's that the Yankees didn't deal him when his value was highest.


Alan also asks: With the universal 4 day break coming, I believe OF Pereira should be in AAA, SP Drew Thorpe in AA, & OF Anthony Garcia should be released. Any other demotions, promotions or releases you think should happen.


Well, we all got our wish: Pereira was already called up to AAA, and he announced his presence with authority, hitting an absolute laser beam to right-center for his first AAA homer.


I also completely agree with calling Thorpe up to AA. Thorpe has four legitimate pitches with command, and he's not being challenged enough anymore at A+. The Yanks need to see how upper-level hitters handle his stuff, which includes below-average fastball velocity. I actually like Thorpe quite a bit, but I think he can make the jump and be asked to prove that he can get upper-level hitters out.


I don't see any reason to release Garcia. He's not blocking anyone, and the talent remains as huge as his body. Let it all play out until he actually blocks a really good prospect. As much as he strikes out, he also has light-tower power and balances strikeouts with patience at the plate. He may never make enough contact to tap into his power, but there's no reason to pull the plug on Garcia yet.


Other promotions? I'd like to see Austin Wells in AAA, getting reps at C, 1B, and LF. I'd also like to see Dominguez at AAA, not necessarily because he's earned it, but the stats indicate strongly that many pitchers are pitching around him to the point that he's losing patience just to find something he can hit. That won't happen at AAA. The last big one: I'd like to see Ben Rortvedt in the big leagues splitting time with Higgy or Trevino. Both Higgy and Trevino are expendable, and Rortvedt might just be able to hit enough to help the team offensively.


David asks: Thoughts on the Volpe turnaround? Is it real and can he sustain it?


Yes, I believe very strongly that the mechanical adjustments Volpe has made are leading to real improvements, allowing him to hit more like the guy we saw in the minors.


Since Volpe closed off his batting stance on June 13th, Volpe has produced the following line (stats are through July 5th):


73 PA, 65 AB, .354/.417/.600, 1.017 OPS, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, .455 BABIP, 24.7% K%, 9.6% BB%


His strikeout rate is just a bit above league average, while his walk rate remains good. Most importantly, Volpe is again hitting for pop, lacing liners all over the field:


This is Volpe's Spray Heatmap since June 13th. We see line drives through the left side of the infield and to the opposite field, while he's hitting with power to all fields once he gets the ball airborne.


If we look at his performance within the strike zone (and beyond) during that time, we see similarly excellent signs:



The numbers show what we can all see: as long as Volpe keeps himself out of counts where he sees breaking and off-speed stuff low and away, he can really impact the baseball.


Volpe's BABIP remains unsustainably high, but as a speedy player who hits the ball this hard, he'll be able to run BABIPs in the .315-.330 range consistently, so while his true talent is certainly beneath the line he's produced in recent weeks, I do think Volpe has turned a corner.

15 Comments


jjw49
Jul 07, 2023

Yanks should trade Torres and Trevino in a package for SP move Donaldson to the bench and call up Peraza to play 3B and move Volpe to 2nd. If Judge misses the month of July Yankees should be sellers but given their DNA they will be stubborn and add a corner OF and maybe a pitcher. Small moves but nothing that will result in dramatically improving the team.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jul 07, 2023

I love Trevino's defense, but I see a platoon of Rortvedt vs righties and Higashioka vs. lefties as the better option. I also bet Trevino's platinum glove fetches a decent return.

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yankeesblog
Jul 07, 2023

Not sure I agree with your argument that Dominguez' problem is that he's getting pitched around too much in AA. You're basically saying he 's getting something like the Barry Bonds treatment. Well no one expected Dominguez to be Barry Bonds but it seems to me that all exceptional hitters get pitched around (think Mantle, Williams, etc.) and still find ways to put up big numbers. Dominguez hasn't figured that out and is slashing .198/.341/.343 in AA and is quite young for that level. I don't see how that warrants a promotion to AAA where he will face better and more experienced pitchers. He might not get pitched around as much at first but if he has the success that's…

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yankeesblog
Jul 07, 2023
Replying to

And I didn't call you one. I compared arguing with you to mud wrestling with a pig. For all your literary flourishes you really do read what you want to read don't you?


And I'm not the one who is mistaken here.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Jul 07, 2023

True words Andy:


"The hallmark of the Aaron Boone era in Yankee history are teams that are not sound fundamentally in any area of the game despite the pedigree of the players on the field."

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jul 07, 2023
Replying to

The truth is, as much as they talk about doing all things fundamentally, they really dont when it comes down to it. The analytics really is all about natural ability.

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