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Yankees pitching prospect Ken Waldichuk speaks with the media (John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

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Yankees MiLB Mini-Camp Update: February 22, 2022; Volpe: “I grew up a huge, huge Yankee fan”

My time in mini-camp this week was rather brief as far as baseball activities are concerned, but the Yankees held a significant media event this past Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday was a shorter batting practice fed by a pitching machine on both fields one and two. Intermingled between the batting practice at bats, but mostly after BP had concluded, were a handful of interviews.

First up was pitcher Beck Way, who made his pro debut for the Tarpons in May of 2021.

Yankees pitching prospect Beck Way speaks with the media (John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

Way was asked about his thoughts on pitching at High-A Hudson Valley. He said, “The baseball gets a little bit better, the prospects… there’s a little bit more names that people know.” Way also mentioned that his velo hit triple digits towards the end of the season.

The Pennsylvania native also mentioned that getting his nerves under control using breath work, like a mindful meditation kind of approach, will hopefully help lower his walk rate in 2022. Way also mentioned working with some pro athletes in the past offseason, specifically mentioning Blake Taylor, a LHP on the Houston Astros. If that name sounds familiar, Taylor was a part of the trade that sent Jake Marisnick to the Mets in 2019. 

Way went into detail about playing with fellow teammate Anthony Volpe on both the pro and amateur levels. The two were teammates in Tampa and Hudson Valley in 2021, but also played against each other when they were 12-13 years old . Volpe played on the GoWags RiverCats team based out of New Jersey, and Way was on a GoWags Heat team out of Harrisburg, PA. Both were Team USA 14U teams. Way said that Volpe would hit home runs on “fields like these”, while gesturing to the fields to his right that are of the same dimensions as Yankee Stadium, adding that “he’d fit right in” on those large fields given his speed and power, even at 13 years old.

Way’s grandfather, who was a former high school baseball coach, kept him at shortstop to help protect his arm, and he converted to a pitcher once he got to college. 

Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson speaks with the media (John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

Dillon Lawson, who was recently promoted to Yankees hitting coach in the Bronx, spoke to the media next. Lawson spoke highly of a handful of Tarpons players, including Anthony Volpe, Trey Sweeney, Elijah Dunham, Austin Wells, among others.

Regarding Volpe, Lawson mentioned Volpe’s swing consistency, saying, “It plays against such a large array of pitchers. Whether it’s a righty, a lefty, from over the top or from the side, he can handle fastballs, he can handle off-speed pitches and just the consistency that he plays with. It isn’t just a high floor, it’s… there’s a high ceiling that goes with that, and he plays at such a high level at all times.”

Lawson spoke on managing expectations with Dominguez given the hype he’s experienced as a result of social media and other avenues of communication. Lawson said that “What’s good about Jasson is that he is mature, at least beyond his age, and that helps us with expectations but also just being real with him in discussing some of the hardships that he might face because of these things.”

“Not treating him like he’s one of a kind, because he is. Everyone is. Everyone’s their own individual so giving them what they need and sometimes he needs a little bit extra to help with those expectations. I think he’s doing an amazing job with that. I just think about myself, if I put myself in that situation.”

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“God, I wouldn’t have been able to handle some of the things that he’s already had to experience and what it might be like to just, you know, the Futures Game or go through an airport and be noticed at that young of an age. I’m sure some of that’s trying, but he’s really done an exceptional job.” 

Lawson also spoke briefly on what the plans looked like for spring training, but couldn’t speak specifically given the variability of the lockout and it’s currently pending status.

Yankees shortstop prospect Trey Sweeney speaks with the media (John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

Trey Sweeney, the Yankees 2021 first rounder draft selection, addressed the media next. The infielder spoke about what he’s working on, saying “recently in my at bats and kind of last season, I was taking a few more hittable pitches that I think I should have swung at, and I think that’s one adjustment I think will help me this season”.

Sweeney also spoke to the organizational depth at shortstop and showered praise on Volpe for what he had learned from the teams too-prospect.

“Just watching him, and his energy. His footwork on defense is really good and so are his hands and also at the plate. There’s a lot of stuff to learn just by watching a player like that.”

The Louisville, Kentucky native also mentioned how the play is different between professional baseball and his experience at college.

“The main difference to me was the fastballs, and not velocity wise, but just how much they moved. It was definitely an adjustment and it took me a little to get used to, but I think just that first year of professional experience is gonna be big for me, and I’ve got a lot of stuff to learn and improve on, so yeah it’s definitely a little bit of a jump but I think it’s gonna be helpful.”

Sweeney also discussed briefly about analytics and how they are helping him tweak his swing for the better.

“The biggest thing I’ve kind of looked at is attack angle with my bat, so when things are going wrong it’s kind of negative and it’s kind of like a choppy swing. We’re working to get that up and working to get the ball higher right now.”

I asked if there were any prospects that stuck out to him specifically, and Sweeney responded saying that “pretty much my whole (2021) draft class hitting wise. The guys that I played on the Tarpons with this year, they’re all super talented and really good hitters. It’s fun to play alongside them and I think they’re going to get some attention pretty soon.”

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Yankees shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe speaks to the media (John Brophy/Pinstriped Prospects)

To round out day one, Volpe spoke with the media and appeared the most polished of the group of players that spoke on Tuesday.

He was asked what he needed to work on and he responded saying “Everything, really. We’ve been really training, hitting hard, fielding hard, everything. I think I said before, but I don’t think any 20 year old is as close to being as good as he can be. So just working on every little thing, everything that can make me better.”

Volpe, a New Jersey native who grew up in Manhattan, was asked what he thinks of being compared to Derek Jeter.

“There’s never going to be another Jeter. It obviously means a lot that they’d say something like that, but I’m just trying to be the best version of myself and I don’t think anyone will compare to what he did.”

Volpe was also asked if he fantasizes about playing in Yankee Stadium: “It’s tough for me to personally think about stuff like that so far in the future just because I’m so content and happy with how things are going right now.”

Volpe spoke highly of fellow Yankees shortstop prospect Oswald Peraza, saying “It feels like we’re getting looks, chances, you know. We’ve played together for these past two years in a spring training setting and stuff like that and you see how hard he works and you see how hard everyone works. I guess it is good to see that we have a chance.”

Regarding work during the 2020 shutdown, “I watched a lot, a lot of video and just tried to get a move that I could repeat and that I could stay consistent with and I felt pretty good about it last year and I feel even better about it now.”

Volpe also mentioned that he doesn’t model himself after anyone in particular, but looks for something that many do the same that he could replicate. He listed a few shortstops that he picks things from, which included Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story.

As for the work that Volpe has put in this off-season following his breakout 2021 campaign, he said that he went to work at Wake Forest in their pitching lab on his arm strength and that was noted as being his biggest area of emphasis heading into the spring.

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Originally a native of Southern Connecticut, John has lived in the Tampa area since 2010 and has been a Tarpons fan since 2012. John is excited to bring you along as the Baby Bombers work their way up to The Bronx.

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