John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Baseball scouts are always going to have difference of opinion on amateur players, particularly at the high school level where so much of evaluation is about projecting what a kid will be in 5-10 years. But rarely is the difference as wide as it seems to be in the case of Yankees' first-round draft pick Anthony Volpe.
Some scouts, as Yankees' scouting director Damon Oppenheimer noted on a conference call this week, see Volpe, a New Jersey high school shortstop, developing into an Alex Bregman or Trevor Story-type impact player in the big leagues.
Two New Jersey-based scouts, meanwhile, told me that while they love Volpe's baseball instincts and his "hard-nosed" style of play, they don't see high-ceiling skills that teams usually look for in first-round draft picks.
"In a sense it's funny the Yankees took him because I see a lot of (Derek) Jeter in him at the high school level," one scout said. "His feel for the game, how hard he plays, how he comes up with big hits. But I'm not sure all of that will translate at higher levels.
"I'm not saying he won't make it to the big leagues. But I think he'll have to move to second base at some point (due to range and arm). He's got a long swing that could get exposed (against better pitching). And he runs OK but not great. I had him as more of a fourth-rounder."
So who will turn out to be right about a player selected with the 30th overall pick in the draft?
Oppenheimer said the Yankees came to know Volpe very well, in part because he played on a summer-league All-Star team that they sponsor as part of what is called the "Area-Code Games."
"He is a quality player who has quality makeup," Oppenheimer said. "We have done a lot of work on him to feel comfortable about him."
Obviously every team wants to know as much as possible about players before they draft them. Oppenheimer also noted that Volpe played a big part in leading an amateur Team USA to a championship in the Pan-Am Games last summer.
"We have seen him lead Team USA to a win," was the way Oppenheimer put it.
Nevertheless, the New Jersey-based scouts wondered if, in this case, getting so close to Volpe overly influenced the Yankees.
"He's a kid you can easily fall in love with because of the way he plays the game," the second scout said. "And there's something to be said for intangibles, especially in this day and age. As scouts we're always telling our bosses it's not all about analytics, and teams are using now even at the high school level. Don't get me started on that.
"So I can appreciate it if the Yankees value (Volpe's) intangibles and factor it into their decision. But you also have to weigh that against projectable talent and you have to be objective in making that evaluation.
"Hey, listen, I hope the Yankees are right about him because you want to see kids like that succeed. But I never saw him going in the first round."
Keith Law, a former scout and front-office executive who evaluates the draft for ESPN, offered an analysis similar to that of the two New Jersey-based scouts.
"There are scouts who loves his instincts on both sides of the ball, and he is a very polished high school player," Law wrote for ESPN, "but there's no plus tool here and maybe not an above-average one, depending how you rate his pure hitting skill."
The Yankees seem to be aware the pick of Volpe raised some eyebrows within the industry.
One of their scouts, who said he couldn't speak publicly about the young shortstop, made the case that because it wasn't a particularly deep draft, the Yankee brass felt strongly that Volpe was worth the investment.
"You watch and you talk to people who have coached him," the scout said, "and they all say he's a winning player. You hear that enough, and you see it, and it means something. He's got plenty of talent but that knack for making the right play…we've seen that before."
The scout laughed. He didn't want to make a comparison to Jeter, but as the New Jersey scout noted earlier, Volpe does seem to share some traits with the Yankee legend, albeit on a smaller scale.
Indeed, three days after the Yankees drafted him, Volpe delivered a two-run home run for his high school, Delbarton School in Morristown, which proved vital in a 4-3 win in a New Jersey state championship game.
It's also worth noting that Jack Leiter, the winning pitcher on Thursday, was selected by the Yankees in the 20th round of the draft. Both Leiter, the son of former Met and Yankee pitcher Al, and Volpe accepted scholarships to attend Vanderbilt, but while Leiter is fully committed to going there, or would have been a first-round pick, the Yankees expect to sign Volpe.
And in another five years or so, we'll know more about which scouts were right about him.