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2022 First Base Targets? – Luke Voit

Last week I looked at potential shortstop options for the Yankees going into the 2022 season, ultimately coming to the idea that a trade for Amed Rosario is the best course of action for the Yankees.

This week, I turn my attention to the players fielding throws from Rosario and the rest of the infield: first base. I talked about one former Yankee yesterday, so what about someone currently on the roster?

 

Luke Voit: A Quick Overview

Originally drafted out of Lafayette High School (Wildwood, MO) late in the 32nd round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Luke Voit instead honored his commitment to play college ball at Missouri State University. Four years later, Voit’s stock had increased as he was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Voit would start his professional career at Class-A- ball that same season, and spend parts of the next 6 seasons (2013-2018) in the minor leagues. On June 25th, 2017 he made his MLB debut and Voit was riding the “Memphis Shuttle” through the 2017 and 2018 seasons before he was traded at the 2018 trade deadline, along with international spending money, to the New York Yankees for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Voit had a very good end of the 2018 season for the Yankees and had a breakout season in 2020 as he led the MLB in Home Runs. Luke Voit is entering into his 2nd arbitration year for 2022 with an expected salary around $5 Million, along with 2 more years of arbitration as a Super Two player which keeps him under team control through 2024.

Over his career, Luke Voit has hit to a .267/.357/.510 (.867 OPS/132 OPS+) triple-slash with 297 hits, 73 home runs, and 203 RBI’s in 351 games over parts of 5 seasons. He’s put in 1,901.1 innings at first base during this time to a -26 DRS and a -2.7 UZR. Combined, he’s accumulated +4.8 bWAR/+6.2 fWAR.

In 2021, Luke Voit played just 68 games while putting up his worst offensive numbers as a Yankee. He hit to a .239/.328/.437 (.764 OPS/109 OPS+) triple-slash with 51 hits, 11 home runs, and 35 RBI’s. He also had a -2 DRS and a +0.6 UZR. Combined, he put up a +0.3 bWAR/+0.4 fWAR season.

Luke Voit has also had his fair share of injuries in the past few seasons as well. This started with a short 13-day stint while in the minor leagues in 2018. In 2019, Voit then missed about 2 weeks while dealing with an abdominal strain and then another month with a sports hernia. 2020 was a healthy season, but 2021 saw Voit land on the IL 4 different times: once in March to start the season (which kept him out until May), later in May for an oblique strain (which kept him out a month), halfway through July with knee inflammation (which kept him out nearly a month), and then again for knee inflammation at the end of September (which kept him out for the rest of the year).

 

The Case For Luke Voit:

Luke Voit quickly broke out when he became a member of the New York Yankees in 2018 leading many to believe that the Yankees beat the Cardinals in his trade. He then followed this up with another good offensive season around some injuries, and then an MLB HR leading 2020 season. It’s safe to say that Yankees fans enjoy having Luke Voit around.

In the past 3 seasons (2019-2021), Luke Voit has hit 54 home runs. Over that time, Luke Voit ranks tied for 77th most in the entire MLB…while putting up less than 1,000 plate appearances. Across players with less than 1,000 PA’s Luke Voit ranks 4th in home runs over the past 3 seasons. It’s safe to say that he is a player who has huge home run potential year-in and year-out.

He’s also under team control for the next few seasons (2022-2024) and he’s likely going to be making just $5 Million this upcoming season. I also wouldn’t expect that his contract goes above a combined $30 Million for the next 3 years. He’s going to be an affordable player going forward.

At a rate of ~$10 Million AAV, and given the performance Voit has put up in the past, if he can stay healthy for a whole season, he’s going to be a valuable bat. And it’s not Voit’s fault that the Yankees have an overabundance of those types of players (Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, etc.).

He’s also very familiar with, and mostly liked by, the New York media. That does go for something.

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The Simple Pro’s: Power Output, Cheaper Salary and Control, Hope, NY Media Darling

 

The Case Against Luke Voit:

A player with 6 different stints on the injured list in the past 4 seasons, who is entering his 30’s, and coming off his worst offensive season to date. That sums up Luke Voit in a negative context. And, it’s not totally fair or unfair.

There is a huge looming question about how Luke Voit will continue to age. Entering into his age-31 season in 2022 and coming off 4 IL stints in 2021 is not a promising sign. Since he became a Yankee full-timer at the MLB level (2019), he has played in just 242 games (or 63%). He’s been (mostly) great when he’s been around, but if he’s even going to be around is a question to ask if he’s on the roster.

Luke Voit is also coming off of his worst offensive season to date. This may be because he was never able to get into the rhythm of things because he kept getting taken out, but the point still stands that he wasn’t productive at the most important thing for him to be productive for: offense.

It doesn’t help that Luke Voit is also a very poor defender at first base. He doesn’t help out other negative defenders on the Yankees (see: Torres, Gleyber) as a first baseman should by being able to save a bad throw. When the offense isn’t there, Luke Voit is a net negative first baseman (see his 2021 WAR values), as much as I don’t want to have to say it.

Another problem with Luke Voit is that he has no future position with the Yankees if he was unable to play first base going forward. He does have some value to a National League team as a cheap DH option (if they are to adopt the DH for 2022), but he is 5th on the Yankees order for a DH behind Stanton, Judge, Gallo, and Sanchez.

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The Simple Con’s: Injury History, Poor Offensive 2021, Poor Defensive Career, No Future Spot on Yankees

 

Ethan’s Thoughts:

I liked Luke Voit, but like what I’m worried about happening to Anthony Rizzo, I think he has played his way into overstaying his time in New York.

I desperately wanted the Yankees to trade Voit after the 2020 season. It was clearly going to be a blip on the radar and he was never going to be that type of player going forward. But, they held on to him at peak value (as they do far too often with temporary players) and the illusion of how good he is is completely gone. He has very little value on the trade market even with a $5 Million salary for 2022.

Luke Voit is a player who I want to be great (obviously, he’s a Yankee), but he’s not going to be. It’s an unfortunate truth but he’s far too bulky in muscle mass to age well and is already showing signs of falling apart after parts of just 6 seasons. It doesn’t help that he continues to go after this by bulking and hitting the gym even harder after injury (as evidenced by his social media).

I’d bet that the Yankees are going to go into the 2022 season with Luke Voit as their first baseman. He’s already on the roster (no additional cost) and on a cheaper contract than any player they would bring in as an upgrade. They’ll do this and say “he’s healthy and ready for a 2022 season to replicate his 2020 success”.

I will also bet that keeping Luke Voit for 2022 will backfire greatly. Luke Voit is a player you walk away from under good graces in moments when you can upgrade to a top tier talent. Right now there are two of those players: Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman. When you can upgrade from average to elite, you make the move. The teams that have Freeman and Olson will have no worries about first base going forward.

The team (Yankees) with Luke Voit will be holding their breath day-in and day-out hoping that he stays healthy.

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