Luke Voit came to the Yankees from St. Louis in 2018 and had one of the most memorable second half stretches in team history, clubbing 14 home runs in 39 games. He established himself as a force capable of carrying the offense. The real question was whether or not Voit could follow up his breakout with a full season of production in 2019. His 2018 pace is unsustainable over a full season, but anything remotely close would mean trouble for the Yankees’ American League rivals.
Voit has 21 games under his belt in 2019 and the early returns have been a bit of a mixed bag, but all signs point towards a player that’s here to stay. His line of .224/.344/.408 doesn’t jump off the stat sheet, but his 15 RBI and .316 batting average with runners in scoring position are more indicative of his contributions.
His low batting average is also misleading, as evidenced by a .271 BABIP compared to the .380 mark he posted last season. A .380 BABIP is unsustainable, but a player that makes as much hard contact as Voit has this season should expect to see that .270 number rise substantially in the coming months without any changes to his approach.
I was interested to see how pitching adjustments in 2019 would affect Voit’s approach at the plate and potentially expose weaknesses in his game. In the early going, not too much has changed from last season. Voit is still swinging at 49.2% of pitches thrown to him, and he’s actually making slightly more contact on balls thrown in the strike zone thus far.
According to FanGraphs, he has seen an 8.6% decrease in contact percentage on pitches he chases outside the strike zone, but he’s still chasing at the same rate as last season, 27.5%. In fact, Voit’s walk rate has increased 3.2% from last season’s sample with the Yankees. With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Voit change his approach and start attacking more first pitches in the coming weeks, as pitchers are getting the first strike in 69.4% of his at-bats, compared to 58.1% in his 132 at-bats as a Yankee last season.
Cashman went out of his way to acquire Voit last season because the front office was enamored with the type of contact he made in his limited opportunities with the Cardinals, and they believed his counting stats didn’t reflect the impact he was making on the baseball. He’s back at it again in 2019, as his Barrel rate of 21.2% lands him in the top 3% of MLB players, according to Statcast.
Statcast also shows that Voit finds the sweet spot on 50% of his batted balls, ranking Voit third in MLB among players with at least 40 batted ball events. His average launch angle and exit velocity have decreased ever so slightly, but not enough to cause concern a few weeks into the season. While nobody can expect Voit to replicate his monstrous 2018 production, the signs are all there for him to put together another strong season, proving that he’s not a flash in the pan. With Aaron Judge now hitting the injured list, the Yankees need Voit now more than ever.