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Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Luke Voit

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If the first baseman returns to form, he will have the chance to assert himself as one of the top players at the position.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

After bursting onto the scene down the stretch in 2018, Luke Voit put together a 2019 season that can be best divided into two halves. In the first 78 games of the season, he posted a .280/.393/.509, hit 17 home runs, and was all-around the fulcrum of the Yankees offense. Following the abdominal injury in London, however, his season ground to a halt. In only 40 games the rest of the way, his slashline dropped to .228/.348/.368 (an almost 200 point swing in OPS!), and he only hit four home runs.

2019 Statistics: 118 games, 510 PA, .263/.378/.464, 21 HR, 62 RBI, 43 XBH, 124 OPS+, 1.9 bWAR, 1.7 fWAR

2020 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections:* 109 games, 469 PA, .258/.351/.464, 21 HR, 66 RBI, 40 XBH, 1.5 fWAR

*Projections based on pre-shortened season

Although Voit will find it difficult to live up to his absurd 39-game stretch from 2018 (193 OPS+, which is Mike Trout-at-his-best territory), there’s every reason to believe that he can replicate his performance from the first half of 2019. Even with his second-half injury-driven slump, he still finished the season in the top ten in barrel percentage (13.2%) and walk rate (13.9%), and his exit velocity ranks in the 63rd percentile.

Furthermore, he’s shown an ability to succeed in multiple ways at the plate: a home run barrage powered his success last April, while extra-base hits and a .333 batting average allowed him to post a .960 OPS in June despite hitting only two home runs in that span. All the while, he maintained an above-average eye — even in his worst month, he walked 15% of the time, or almost double the league average of 8.5%. He’s more than just a simple power hitter hitter at the plate.

On an ideal roster, Voit would probably serve as a full-time designated hitter. Defensively, he has a lot of work to do, recording a score of -6 on Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric (second-worst among first basemen, behind only Pete Alonso), and he has the range of a Greek statue. So long as he finds the groove that he had in the first half last season, however, this should not be a problem — as Josh noted back in December, his pre-injury performance (a 140 wRC+) would have ranked second among all first basemen, behind only Alonso. At that point, so long as he’s not killing you at a critical defensive position, you find a way to keep the bat in the lineup and just live with the less-than-stellar defense.

All of this goes to say that Luke Voit has the potential, now that his torn abdomen has healed, to show himself as one of the top first basemen in baseball. Whether filling a hole vacated at the top of the lineup or sitting lower in the order protecting the top bats, he projects to serve a valuable role in the Yankees lineup once the season gets underway.