He’s probably the easiest guy to root for. All Luke Voit has done since he got to the Yankees is mash. Casual baseball fans are starting to notice, and there has even been All-Star and Home Run Derby talk. Every time he comes up with a big hit, stadium crowds rejoice in “LUUUUUKE” chants. Since he was acquired last season Voit has hit .285/.385/.564 good for a 153 wRC+. His 30 home runs in 103 games is a ridiculous 47 home run pace. That is top flight production. Here’s your friendly reminder that we acquired him from the Cardinals for two scrap relief pitchers.
So what makes Luke Voit so good? Let’s take a dive into the numbers:
Barreling the Baseball
A “barrel,” defined here, is exactly what you think it is. It’s a well struck baseball.
Voit routinely does this. 20% barrels last season, 16% this season, which is in the top 6% of the league. When a player barrels the ball more often than others, you can bet that there are going to be better results. Less popups, dribblers, and other batted ball types that almost always end up as outs, unless Luis Castillo is playing second base.
An underrated part of Voit’s game is his ability to draw walks. His 13.7% walk rate this season leads the Yankees and is ranked 10th in the American League. The hitters who are ahead of him are some brand names like Trout, Betts, and Bregman. His high walk rate is complimented by his ability to hit for average as well. Even though Voit looks like a dude who never leaves the weight room, he is more of a complete hitter than people realize. He’s not just a one trick pony. He can use the whole field if he’s behind in the count and not hard to imagine him maintaining respectable batting averages going forward.
Despite being able to use the whole field, Voit has recently begun turning on the ball more often. This is probably one of the reasons he is on a 40 homer pace this season. Here are his home run spray charts from the last two years, 2018 on the left, this year on the right:
You can tell he is learning to pull the ball more. This home run earlier this season was especially impressive for me. Voit brings his hands pretty far in and is able to barrel up a David Price cutter:
We all know Voit has power to right field, especially in Yankee Stadium, but if he keeps improving on his pull-side power as well, he could be a special bat.
Room for Improvement
There is one part of Voit’s game that is still a work in progress, and it’s his defense. He seems to be adequate at scooping balls out of the dirt, but his poor range and bad throwing arm are hurting his defense. All of the major metrics have him below average, Fangraphs DEF: -8.5, DRS: -6. The good news is that if you are trying to hide a bad defender, the best place is probably first base. We don’t need Voit to be Mark Teixeira out there, but if he could improve his defense just a little bit, it would go a long way to making him a more complete player. The Yankees currently stand 29th out of the 30 teams in defense with -8.3 DEF. Just be happy we aren’t the Pirates: -15.7. Yikes.
Fear not about the defensive woes though, we have finally found our permanent first baseman. This position has kind of been a revolving door since Tex hung up the cleats. I see Voit sticking around for a while. His combination of power, average, and patience is enough for many other teams to envy. Cashman and his analytics team have done it again. They have found a diamond in the rough.