TAMPA — One of the more significant decisions in recent Yankees history started to become clear to team officials fairly early in spring training: Anthony Volpe had come to camp to win the shortstop job.
As Brian Cashman put it Monday, the 21-year-old Volpe “put a stranglehold on that position pretty early in camp.”
But the Yankees wanted to let the competition play out among Volpe, Oswald Peraza and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Volpe just never let it be much of a decision at all.
“We knew IKF could defend it, we knew Peraza could take it and we knew Volpe could rise above them all,” Cashman said Monday before the Yankees left Florida for a final exhibition on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “We all were open-minded to seeing how it would play out. Anybody watching can’t deny the fact that Anthony won that battle and he’s earned that shot.”
So the Yankees will head north with Volpe as their starting shortstop, Kiner-Falefa a utilityman off the bench and Peraza at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“I felt pretty confident about [Volpe] pretty early on,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The complicating part of it was I have a lot of confidence in Oswald.”
Cashman and Boone had previously indicated that whoever won the shortstop competition would have to continue to defend it in the regular season.
But Cashman said on Monday that Volpe was going to “get a long shot.”
“He knows, for better or for worse, we’re committed to letting him handle that position,” Cashman said. “We think he’s not going to let us down. We think he’s going to do really well for us in the short term and in the long term.”
Peraza received a one-month cameo with the Yankees at the end of last season and impressed, even making a start at shortstop in the ALCS.
He figured to be the slight favorite for the shortstop competition entering spring training, but the Yankees insisted on having it be an open battle and stayed true to their word.
By the time the club had its organizational roster meeting last week, with multiple departments having a voice, Cashman said the “resounding” consensus was that Volpe was the leader. The New Jersey product only continued to reinforce that over the final week of games before the Yankees made the decision official on Sunday and told him he had made the team.
“You let it play out, but he never let up,” Cashman said. “He kind of took control early, middle and late.”
The Yankees typically like their prospects to conquer every level of the minor leagues before arriving in the big leagues, but Volpe’s 22 games at Triple-A did not work against him in this case based on what the team believed he was capable of handling.
“If we wanted it to be conquered every level, we wouldn’t have given him a fair shot at the competition,” Cashman said. “We wouldn’t have openly said that in the winter time. We felt, based on what we had already seen last year, that he could legitimately take this and he could leapfrog over Peraza, if given that chance.”
To begin the season, Volpe will likely hit ninth for the Yankees, though Boone said that could be eighth some days or first when DJ LeMahieu is out of the lineup.
Being on the bases shortly before No. 2 hitter Aaron Judge is due up, or when he is at the plate, does not mean the Yankees will limit Volpe’s aggressiveness in stealing bases.
“I will run him,” Boone said. “But I do like the nine-hole. I think the way he controls the strike zone, he has a chance to be a guy that gets on base a lot. I definitely like that component ahead of the top of our lineup. I’ll take speed anywhere. But I look at it more that nine-hole being, yeah, it’s nice to have speed … but I like more the fact that it’s a guy that’s capable of getting on base.”