After waiting for what seemed like a decade, the New York Yankees will, barring any setbacks — knock on wood — get first baseman Luke Voit back next week. It wasn’t actually years, more like a little over a month of missed regular season time, but for fans, enduring those weeks of subpar production from the position has felt like forever.
Voit even said it himself last week:
“I’ve been champing at the bit, watching every game at home. I want to come back, and I miss the guys. It’s felt like I’ve been gone for two months. I can’t wait.”
Voit, who led the major leagues in home runs last season with 22, was diagnosed with a partially torn meniscus back in March. He needed surgery, but he is back playing in rehab games and, according to manager Aaron Boone, will likely rejoin the Bombers at some point in the road trip that begins against the Rays on May 11th in St. Petersburg.
The first baseman played his first official game in weeks on Tuesday, going 2-for-3 with a double. Voit was the designated hitter in that game, but Boone said he would field his position for a few innings on Wednesday night. That promise was delivered, and Voit crushed a ball for a two-run shot.
Wave that ball GOODBYE!— SWB RailRiders (@swbrailriders) May 5, 2021
Luke Voit sends a shot over the right field wall to give the RailRiders a 2-0 lead in the third inning. pic.twitter.com/ya8g3rKp3U
The slugger looks ready to go, and as soon as his sea legs are back under him he should be plugged right into the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.
The Yankees could use the help at the position, to put it lightly. After Jay Bruce’s sudden retirement, DJ LeMahieu has been playing some first base and Rougned Odor was used to cover the keystone, but the latter got hurt on Tuesday’s win against the Astros. Mike Ford has also been playing some games lately.
All of the aforementioned players haven’t come close to replicating Voit’s offensive output from last season, and that includes LeMahieu. To be honest, as a group, they have been well-below average, and if we take out LeMahieu, they have been quite terrible.
So far, LeMahieu has started 12 of the team’s 30 games at first base. Bruce had ten starts and Ford eight. According to FanGraphs, Yankees first basemen ranked 20th in MLB with a 92 wRC+, mainly fueled by LeMahieu’s 116 mark. The group had a .218/.323/.322 triple slash, which is definitely not what you want from a position associated with slugging and power.
If we judge the first basemen per se, well, it’s not good. Bruce decided to hang up his cleats after posting a .118/.231/.235 line with one home run and a 39 wRC+, while Ford hasn’t fared much better than that, batting .103/.235/.310 and a 60 wRC+. To be fair, Ford has the profile to produce more if given enough at-bats, but that may not be necessary beyond this week. Luke Voit is about to return and give an already-surging lineup a jolt.
Voit’s impending return not only provides more power to the Yankees’ offense, but also, it lengthens it. Opposing lineups will now need to deal with an additional slugger when they surely preferred to handle the likes of Ford and Odor. Last season, Voit hit .277/.338/.610 with an outstanding 152 wRC+ and 22 homers in 56 games. That is miles better than what the Yankees have fielded so far at first base. And, if you don’t believe in small samples (can’t blame you there), he has a .274/.363/.527 career line with a 138 wRC+, showcasing comfortably above-average production.
Even his defense seemed improved in 2020’s shortened year, as my colleague Erica noted late last season. For the Yankees, some stability wouldn’t hurt, and Voit will provide just that in a position of need. The Yankees are certainly ready to welcome him back.