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Yankees 2021 Season Preview: Luke Voit

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In two-plus seasons wearing pinstripes, Luke Voit has gone from a Quad-A depth piece to franchise cornerstone.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

At every stage of his career, happy-go-lucky Luke Voit has blown all reasonable expectations out of the water. As the 665th overall pick in the 2013 draft, he probably shouldn’t have made it past more than a couple seasons of minor league ball in St. Louis. Instead, he boat-raced his peers, posting a wRC+ over 110 in every single season, speeding through each stage of the minors. In fact, he improved upon that stat in each successive season, even as the quality of pitching stiffened up the minor league ladder.

Since being dealt to the Yankees for a couple relievers in 2018, Voit has continued his uphill ascent, solidifying himself as one of the game’s most-feared sluggers and culminating in a long ball total that led the majors last season.

2020 Stats: 234 PA, .277/.338/.610, 22 HR, 52 RBI, 23.1 K%, 7.3 BB%, 152 wRC+, 1.8 WAR

2021 FanGraphs Depth Charts Projection: 609 PA, .261/.349/.500, 34 HR, 101 RBI, 25.5 K%, 10.6 BB%, 123 wRC+, 2.5 WAR

Having built such a strong resume to date, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Luke Voit can and will slug baseballs at the highest levels as long as he is in the lineup. While the statistical variance baked into a shortened schedule may have contributed to the extremity of Voit’s 2020 totals (his 22 homers in 60 games scales up to 59.4 over 162), the elite quality of his batted ball data lends some credence to hopes of the big boy’s ability to do it again.

Voit finished 2020 above the league’s 80th percentile in xBA, xSLG, Barrel %, and xwOBA. Though his average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage were merely average, his ideal launch angle of 15.2 degrees — about four degrees above league average — helped Voit make the most of each of his batted balls.

In this image depicting the launch angle of all of Voit’s batted balls in 2020, the vast majority came at angles which commonly produced hits. The red streak at about 10 degrees represents balls that likely cleared the infield but landed in front of an outfielder, whereas the red splotch above 20 degrees includes hits that cleared at least an outfielder, and in 22 instances, the fence.

However, similar to other Yankee hitters, Voit experienced a boost in actual home runs compared to his expected output. As a righty more than capable of driving the ball to the opposite field, Voit benefits from Yankee Stadium’s right-field fences that play even shorter than they are due to a generous wind tunnel effect.

Only 10 batters experienced a greater disparity between their expected and real home run totals, a list that included two Yankees also known for their opposite field power: Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu.

Like a number of other Yankees, Voit’s biggest question mark potentially undermining his ability to reproduce his loftiest totals is his checkered medical history. After an abdominal injury cost him about a quarter of the 2019 season, Voit played in all but four games in 2020, but battled through plantar fasciitis, hampering his already-limited mobility in the field and on the bases. Already this spring, Voit’s had to work around some general knee soreness.

When asked, Aaron Boone dismissed any serious health concerns regarding Voit, “Just a little soreness, he was dealing with a little knee soreness, but I think he’s good to go…Overall, we’re, we’re pretty good.”

However, it’s hard to ignore the constant string of physical maladies that have plagued not just Voit, but seemingly all of the Yankees’ He-Man-sized humans. Still, if Voit is even 80 percent of what he’s been for the Yankees so far, the team should be in great shape at first base for at least the coming season.

UPDATE:

Welp. It will indeed be a little bit before we see Voit in 2021.