In the dog days of August, with a month left in an already successful season, Anthony Volpe has his sights set on one thing: making sure his team gets to the playoffs.
Currently, that means the Hudson Valley Renegades. A few years down the road, it could be the New York Yankees.
As an increasing buzz surrounds the 20-year-old shortstop out of New Jersey, who has crushed his first full season of professional baseball and zoomed up prospect lists along the way, Volpe has his blinders on.
“I want to win the High-A championship,” Volpe told The Post on Friday. “That’s kind of what’s on all our minds right now.”
Elsewhere, the talk about Volpe involves his sudden rise to become the Yankees’ top prospect and No. 15 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com’s new rankings, released this week. It involves the .305/.438/.617 slash line, 20 home runs and 28 steals he had posted this season, in 85 games split between Low-A and High-A, entering Saturday. It involves the lifelong Yankees fan, the club’s 2019 first-round pick, taking a few more steps toward realizing his dream.
But for those who know Volpe, and have seen his work up close, his standout season doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
“You talk about somebody who eats, sleeps, drinks baseball from a very young age, it’s Anthony,” Al Leiter told The Post. “You talk about character, what an unbelievable person, intelligent, hard worker, cares. Super high level of give-a-[expletive]. I can’t say enough nice things about this kid.
“I would take  of these guys and figure out where to put them in the field.”
Leiter speaks from experience. Not only has he walked in Volpe’s shoes, as a New Jersey-bred high draft pick (second round) of the Yankees in 1984 on the way to a 19-year MLB career, he also has known Volpe most of the younger man’s life.
Volpe and Leiter’s son Jack — who was selected No. 2 overall by the Rangers in this year’s draft — have been close since meeting on an Upper East Side playground in the early 2000s, when Leiter was still pitching for the Mets.
Growing up in Manhattan, with Derek Jeter as his favorite player, Volpe played youth baseball through The Baseball Center, located on the Upper West Side, before his family moved to New Jersey. There, he reunited with Jack Leiter when they both attended Delbarton School and won a state championship together in 2019, three days after Volpe was drafted 30th overall by the Yankees.
They also were playing together in the 2017 underclass Area Code Games when Yankees Northeast scouting supervisor Matt Hyde got his first close look at Volpe. Hyde spent five games watching Volpe from the dugout and his full package quickly became clear.
“He was a very high-energy player who not only made those around him better, but he had the knack of coming up with the big hit, the big stolen base, the big play defensively,” Hyde said.
Volpe played for the Yankees’ Area Code team the following summer, which allowed amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer to see more of him up close and only increased the organization’s comfort level with him. Then Volpe’s power and speed began to emerge in his draft year, making him an even more attractive pick.
“To see this all come together, this was everything we hoped that it would be from what we saw that senior year at Delbarton,” said Hyde, who credited Oppenheimer, special assistant Jim Hendry, national cross-checker Brian Barber and scout Jeff Deardorff for a “total team effort” in scouting Volpe.
Volpe and Jack Leiter were back on a field together last summer, when Volpe was robbed of a minor league season and Leiter of a full season at Vanderbilt because of COVID-19.
Leiter pitched to Volpe in simulated games at Delbarton, with iron sharpening iron. By August, though, Leiter was headed back to school and Volpe saw the writing on the wall that there would be no organized baseball for him to play in the rest of the year.
Instead, he poured himself into working on his swing so that it would be ready by the time he got the chance to play again. Volpe got connected with Jason Lefkowitz, a former scout-turned-hitting coach based in Westchester County.
Volpe drove from his home in Watchung, N.J., to Lefkowitz’s facility Monday through Friday every week from August through February to refine his right-handed swing and make it more efficient and repeatable.
Lefkowitz estimated that Volpe took close to 10,000 swings wearing a K-Vest, a biomechanics device that tracks swing movements. They had plenty of time for trial and error, but the focus was on consistency and efficiency, not how hard the ball was coming off his bat.
Every day, Volpe would go from three-hour hitting sessions with Lefkowitz to two-hour training sessions with Mike Baker, his longtime strength coach.
“That was this kid’s life for the entire pandemic,” Lefkowitz said. “He took ownership of his career at age 19. It was incredible.”
Yankees coaches were also in constant contact with Volpe to check in on his progress and help however they could from afar, in addition to Dillon Lawson, the club’s hitting coordinator, keeping in touch with Lefkowitz.
The work was a grind, but Volpe enjoyed it. Still, there were nights when he caught himself thinking about how he should be in his third at-bat of a game somewhere, perhaps Charleston, S.C., instead of sitting at home.
But he found solace in the hope that the work would eventually pay off.
“I felt like a couple years down the line, I’d be able to look back on that [year without games] and really be thankful for it and look at it as laying the foundation for more improvements in the future,” Volpe said.
After getting a brief taste of pro ball in 2019 — he hit .215 with two home runs and a .704 OPS in 34 games with Rookie League Pulaski before his season was cut short by mononucleosis — Volpe reported to spring training this year ready to put his hard work into action.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he began the year as the Yankees’ No. 11 prospect, per MLB.com, and not included in the top-100 overall prospects. He was assigned to Low-A Tampa to start the season and got off to a hot start, doubling in each of his first four games.
By the middle of July, after hitting .302 with 12 home runs, five triples, 21 steals and a 1.078 OPS in 54 games, his work in Tampa was done. He was promoted to Hudson Valley and has hardly skipped a beat. His control of the strike zone has been one of his biggest adjustments: He had 51 walks and 43 strikeouts in Tampa to 15 walks and 34 strikeouts in Hudson Valley.
“It just seems like every at-bat, he steps in the box right now and he knows he’s going to win,” Lefkowitz said.
More than anything this season, Volpe’s power has popped. He chalked it up to his offseason work instead of any increased focus on launch angle or exit velocity.
“For me, it’s been the power to dead center, power to right field that he’s shown here,” Hudson Valley manager Dan Fiorito said. “I remember seeing him a couple years ago and his bat-to-ball skills impressed me so much, along with so many other coaches. But just to see the power take the strides it has, has been a huge jump.”
Fiorito also lauded Volpe’s baseball instincts, which help him make a play every night that can change the game, and his strong makeup. The latter, which Fiorito attributed to Volpe’s family, has helped keep him focused as the expectations rise around him.
“At only 20 years old, to have all these expectations and to go about his work on an everyday basis and how he handles adversity has been as professional as it can be,” Fiorito said.
As Volpe has tapped further into his potential this season, future projections for him vary, including whether he can stick at shortstop — a position that has been something of a revolving door for the Yankees since Jeter retired in 2014.
“Everyday player at a minimum,” said a scout who has seen Volpe play this season. “He can hit. [Second baseman] only though.”
Fiorito sees it differently.
“He has all the potential to be a great big league shortstop,” he said. “Defensively, he makes some incredible plays and dominates the routine play.”
The promotion to Hudson Valley also brought Volpe much closer to home and his support system. He usually has at least one of his parents at every home game, and at a recent game in Brooklyn, there were 238 members of the extended Volpe family in attendance.
“That might be understating it,” Volpe said with a chuckle.
Volpe’s family and agent also offered quality advice ahead of the MLB trade deadline to “just shut everything off” as his name came up in trade rumors. While a handful of Volpe’s teammates were moved, he remained with the organization as a big part of its future.
Thursday, he joined the 20/20 club by crushing a walk-off home run to lift Hudson Valley to a win over Brooklyn. It was another win to get the Renegades closer to the postseason as they entered the weekend tied with Greensboro for the second and final playoff spot in High-A East. The top two teams play for the championship at the end of September, and Volpe hopes to be there.
Some day, that playoff chase could come in The Bronx. For now, Volpe is making the most of it happening in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
“It’s like every kid’s dream growing up in New York City and being a diehard Yankees fan to one day be able to represent the Yankees and wear the pinstripes,” Volpe said. “The draft and everything was definitely an awesome moment for me and my family to tour the stadium and do all that stuff.
“Now, this is the fun part where you get to play and interact with your teammates and work with your teammates so you guys can all hopefully one day play for the real Yankees. That’s obviously the light at the end of the tunnel, the long-term goal, but it’s been really fun to be here every day and be competing every day again and play for the Hudson Valley Renegades.”
— Additional reporting by Ken Davidoff
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