Given how his season ended, as a non-factor in the playoffs, it may be easy to forget about how Luke Voit performed when healthy in 2019. DJ LeMahieu took over at first base in October and continued to hit like a machine, and that made it even easier to push Voit from our collective consciousness. But as we head into the offseason and think about how the Yanks’ roster will look come spring training, we should remember that they already have a prolific bat at first base, one who when healthy, showed his torrid 2018 stretch with the Bombers wasn’t a fluke.
The trade for Voit may not seem as much like a steal anymore given what Giovanny Gallegos has become, but the Bombers still acquired an explosive bat with staying power in that deal. It became more difficult to see once a core injury in London began a second half of the season that was plagued by injury, and he was eventually left off the postseason roster. Before the injury, however, Voit was a star.
In his first month of the season, which began with a bang with his solo home run to dead center on Opening Day, he posted an wRC+ of 144, and an OPS of .915. He remained well above league average in May with a 117 wRC+ before exploding again in June, posting a wRC+ of 159 before pulling up lame against Boston in London on what was his third double of the afternoon. From Opening Day to that double, Voit slashed .280/.393/.509, adding up to an OPS just above .900 with 17 home runs.
Voit’s OPS for the rest of the season sat at just .715, but it’s easy to assume that his core injury played a part in that. He just wasn’t the same player when he returned, but now that he will have more than a full offseason to recover, there’s no reason to suspect that he won’t return in 2020 and put up the numbers he was posting through the first three months of 2019. It’s not just the pure power that suggests that, either. It’s Voit’s ability to stay within the zone and work counts like teammates Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks and Gleyber Torres.
Voit’s walk rate of 13.9 percent was in the top five percentile in all of baseball last season, per Statcast. That rate was the continuation of a promising trend that shows even when Voit isn’t fully locked in at the plate in terms of making hard contact, he can still put together productive at-bats.
Voit’s 13.2 barrel percentage last year was also in the top 10 percent in the league, making him a prolific hitter in terms of quality of contact and an eye at the plate. If Voit comes into camp with what he’s shown when healthy since his arrival to New York, there really is no competition. Voit looks like the real deal, and nothing close to just a flash in the pan.