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Luke Voit’s injury overshadowed his continued development

For all the concern around first base, the Yankees should have a long-term solution there already

Los Angeles Angels v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I think Luke Voit might end up being the perfect poster child for Brian Cashman’s run as Yankee GM. The perpetual Quad-A hitter had terrific Statcast numbers, but was stuck low in the St Louis Cardinals pecking order. When he was acquired by the Yankees, we all just kind of shrugged, but the rest, as they say, is history.

Voit didn’t escape the injury plague that hit the team in 2019. An abdominal injury right around the London series sidelined him, continued to be problematic upon Voit’s return, and eventually required surgery once the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. Voit was dreadful after getting hurt, but I think his performance pre-injury gets overlooked easily.

Before going down, Voit was having a better season than Gleyber Torres or DJ LeMahieu, boasting a 140 wRC+ in the first half. His plate discipline actually improved over his monster 2018 run, which is always very encouraging to see in a player’s first full season.

I have a theory that the thing that most separates good hitters from poor hitters is “wasted” plate appearances. The four-pitch strikeout, or infield popup, are wasted plate appearances. They don’t inflict any costs on the opposing team, giving them one of their 27 outs and usually not even costing the pitcher a significant amount of pitches. When healthy, Luke Voit does not waste his plate appearances.

He popped out exactly zero times in the first half, while seeing more pitches per plate appearances in the first half than he did in 2018. Voit just doesn't give anything away at the plate, and it’s part of what makes him such a projectable hitter.

Voit should come into 2020 as the starting first baseman. Despite the discourse about moving LeMahieu to a less valuable position, or trying to teach Miguel Andujar a new one, Voit’s just too good a hitter to relegate to a part-time role. Should he really be a full-time DH? Yeah, probably, but the Yankees haven’t let go of their weird obsession with Giancarlo Stanton, designated hitter quite yet.

Even if Voit’s defense is below average - which it probably is - a 140 wRC+ bat plays anywhere, even at the traditionally stacked first base spot. If Voit had maintained his pre-injury production over the full season, he would have been the second-best hitting 1B, behind only Pete Alonso, and well above the first base median of 114.5. You live with poor defense when the offensive upside is that great.

The Yankees are already going into the new year with one of the premier first basemen in the game, and they don’t have to move players out of position to do so. Hopefully Voit won’t tear his abs again, and we can really see what Cashman snagged away from the Cardinals over 150 games.