The Yankees labored through yet another tough series against the Rays this week, but on a positive note, Luke Voit continued to rake: he closed the series with his 10th home run of the year on Thursday afternoon, marking the continuation of another dominant season that has moved Voit further and further away from the word “fluke.”
Remember when many wondered whether Voit would be able to replicate his 2018 production in 2019? He did, at least before he got hurt in London, and he’s doing it again in 2020. Voit has now played in 177 games for the Yankees, plenty enough of a sample size to see that not only is he the real deal, but he is making the case to be considered as the best offensive first baseman in all of baseball.
Heading into the weekend, Voit was carrying a ridiculous 184 wRC+, the highest by any first baseman in the majors. Paul Goldschmidt is next at 169, but Voit has a cozy lead at the top of the pack. His .438 wOBA is also tops among first baseman, as his absurd .696 slugging percentage.
Those numbers are right in line with what he did down the stretch of the 2018 season, when many in Yankees Universe questioned how in the world Voit would continue to produce at that level. Well, his OPS+ as a Yankee in 2018 was 193, and it currently sits at 187 in 2020. His barrel rate is higher in 2020 (21.7%) than it was in 2018 (20%), as is his xSLG (.703 this year, .681 in 2020).
Of course, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given Voit’s production last season, when he came out of the gate with a home run to dead center on Opening Day, and by the time he exited with a core injury against the Red Sox in London, he had a .901 OPS in 349 plate appearances. Those numbers dipped when he returned, but Voit expressed how much that core injury lingered, and he came into 2020 feeling completely recovered. So far, it’s shown on the field.
Voit’s contributions, whether it be in the middle of the order or even in the leadoff spot, have been crucial given injuries to other key players like Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu, but it has also been significant in the greater scope for the franchise. The Yankees, who have struggled with the likes of Chris Carter and the oft-injured Greg Bird over recent years, have been searching for a regular, reliable first baseman since the prime seasons of Mark Teixeira.
They don’t have to look anymore.
Voit, who is arbitration eligible in 2021 and expected to hit free agency in 2025, has first base covered, and will likely command an extension if he keeps this up. Right now, he’s looking like one of the best first basemen in the league, and still getting better. His average launch angle has increased to 20 degrees this year (it was 15.3 in 2018), and with it has been a higher home-run rate. Voit is among the league leaders in home runs, and when you refine your search for just first baseman, he’s near or at the top in almost every offensive category. By the looks of it, he’ll be up there to stay.