Baseball has always had crazy athletic plays on defense—jaw-dropping displays of athleticism. From Ozzie Smith in the ’80s to Derek Jeter in the late ’90s and 2000s, there has always been that showing of range, placement, and crazy throws that no ordinary human can make. Thanks to the ending of the over-shift in Major League Baseball, fans are once again graced with this style of play that was seemingly removed from the game. Here are 3 young stars in the making already in the Majors.
3 Young Athletic Shortstops
1. Anthony Volpe: A New Star for the Yankees
Being the New York Yankees shortstop has become special since Derek Jeter took over that spot in 1995. The next guy to fill that spot is New York native Anthony Volpe. Entering the season, Volpe was the number 3 prospect in baseball. The high praise was for a good reason, in 2021 and 2022, he had shown the power and speed combination. In 2021 he had a .294/27/86 (average/ home runs/RBIs) line. With 33 stolen bases and an OPS of 1.027. The offensive numbers did take a bit of a slide, having a .249/21/65 with a whopping 50 steals. It makes sense why the Yankees were willing to give him a shot at the big league level to start the season.
New York isn’t always the most accessible place to play a lot of times. The fans expect a lot from their teams, players, and coaches. Especially when it comes to the Yankees. Volpe understands this since he grew up in an era of dominance by the Yankees. He even looked up to the former Yankees’ Captain, and the number 11 he wears pays homage to Jeter. Even though the number 2 is up in the rafters, the two 1s pay homage to his baseball idol Jeter.
To be fair, Volpe hasn’t set the world on fire with his bat. However, he is stealing his fair share of bases. His 8 steals are good enough for sixth best in all of baseball, and as the old adage says, speed doesn’t go into slumps. It’s likely that we will see Volpe get the bat going as the season continues. A lot of young guys hit a wall sooner or later. The game of baseball is all about adjustments and readjusting to pitchers.
2. Zach Neto: Bringing 305 Attitude to 714
Zach Neto was drafted 13th overall in 2022. You read that right he was drafted in 2022 after playing college baseball at Campbell University. The kid was a hitter in college, and he showed a glimpse of that in AA Rocket City, where he hit to a tune of .444 in limited action. In the short time he had this year in AA, it was a blazing start for him. That combined with the slower start of David Fletcher allowed Los Angeles Angels GM Perry Minassian to again make the aggressive roster move.
Neto doesn’t lack the confidence and swagger you need in the league. Maybe it’s the Miami attitude in him, but I personally love it. Young players want to take the league by storm and make an impact. He will have stars around him like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Even more so the Angels have had a black hole at the shortstop position for a few years. They didn’t sign one this past offseason, so it very well be Neto’s job to lose for the foreseeable future.
Sometimes the guys that skip the minors are usually assumed to be some special kind of player. Will Neto be that player? There is a lot to like about him, raw athleticism, pure hitting ability, and the most important, anchoring the middle of the diamond. Something the Angels haven’t had in the last couple of years at that position.
3. Bobby Witt Jr: The King of the Future of Kansas City
Bobby Witt Jr. was on the radar of baseball people for a few years before making the opening-day roster for the Kansas City Royals last year. His rookie year was special, as he did have a 20/20 year (20 home runs and 20 Stolen bases). He is a 22-year-old in his second full season in the league on a team that is full of young raw talented guys.
The only true downside to Witt Jr’s game at this point is his lack of walks. His OBP was .294 which is 100 points below the Major League average during the 2022 season. However, his OBPS and SLG percentages of .428 and .722 were above or just below the league averages of .724 and .404 respectively.
A lot of his offensive issues are just him being young and inexperienced, I’m sure playing in the World Baseball Classic made an impact on him. Learning from the veterans who have been there before. Bobby Witt Jr is young, athletic, and full of raw talent. In a few years, the Royals may have a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate for years to come.
Main Photo: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports