Patience and power is not easy to teach. Finding a cost-controlled player that can consistently get on base via walks and hit home runs is not particularly easy. Thankfully, the Yankees found Luke Voit in 2018 and ever since then, he has been productive, offering those two traits in bunches.
He was on the way to a career-best season until July 30. That day, he injured his core muscle, and even though he came back later to keep playing, he wasn’t the same.
Struggling with injury
Prior to suffering the ailment, Voit was hitting .278/.392/.493 with a .375 wBOA and a 136 wRC+. He had 19 home runs to his name. After that, he slashed .200/.319/.338 with a .292 wOBA and a 80 wRC+, and only hit two more home runs. He had a 1-32 bad streak in September and while he said the struggles weren’t related to the injury, it’s hard to believe him given the evidence.
Voit had an .885 OPS prior to the sports hernia and a .657 OPS after his return. It’s not hard to do the math. He eventually required surgery, which was performed in October.
Overall, he finished 2019 with a .263/.378/.464 batting line, 21 home runs, 62 RBI, and 72 runs scored in 118 regular-season games. He is only 28 years old, and he is expected to be fully healthy for spring training. That’s awfully good news for the Yankees.
The Yankees are a significantly better team when he is on the lineup. He makes up his defensive shortcomings (-13.6 fielding runs below average per Fangraphs) with his potent bat and his ability to take walks. Not many players can take walks at a 13.9% clip.
His ability to get on base is perfect in the high-powered Yankees’ lineup, and he will score plenty of runs even if he is, well, slow. His ability to hit the ball with authority also serves him well with the opportunity to drive runs in. He is the perfect middle of the order thumper.
He wasn’t on the roster for the American League Championship Series against the Astros because he was banged up and mired in a slump. He is going to want revenge, and he is hungry.
Keeping his spot
Voit better be hungry, as he will need to perform to fend off other capable first baseman/designated hitter types in the Yankees. The infield corners are crowded, and there’s talk that Miguel Andujar could find himself getting reps at first. Mike Ford’s lefty bat is potent. There will be no breaks for Voit in 2020: if he underperforms, the Bombers have options to replace him.
He appears to be in the manager’s good graces. Aaron Boone said back in December that he anticipates Voit being the starter at first base, and that he would play every day. “I’m confident that Luke Voit is an impact player for us,” the skipper said.
A healthy Voit playing every day has the potential to eclipse 30 home runs and 100 walks. Even if his contact issues (he struck out 27.8 percent of the time in 2019) somewhat limit his average, he can hit at a decent rate. The real trait for the Yankees, however, is his OBP. His healthy stretches suggest he can easily hover around a .370 mark, and if things break right, .400 isn’t out of the question.
A middle-of-the-order consisting of Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Voit, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton in some order has to be a real headache for any pitcher in MLB.