Looking for some consistency and maybe even a spark from a vacant position on the diamond, the Yankees took a low-risk chance on Luke Voit in 2018 and the summer trade - basically another experiment - paid significant dividends.
There might have been some uncertainty at the outset of the 2019 season as to Voit's future, but once again he is carrying the club. Voit's amazing run to end the 2018 regular season was a surprise that came at the right time for the squad. Now, much more so than last season, Voit is being relied on to carry the load and he's not disappointing.
After being known mainly by those invested in covering the Cardinals' minor-league system, Voit made a mark on the national stage in a pennant race last season. Voit not only helped lead the Yankees' charge to the postseason, he provided much needed stabilization at first base, a vacancy long unfilled.
There was hesitation from some for 2019 because of his age (28) and reading into his inability to crack the Cardinals' roster. The reality was the Cardinals possessed players they believed to be better suited to playing first base, and without the designated hitter to fall back on St. Louis dealt Voit to the Yankees.
Voit owns a .288 career batting average in the minors, with a .370 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage. Voit's .930 OPS in 610 cumulative Triple-A plate appearances foreshadowed the lethal bat he now wields with the Yankees.
Despite the incredible success last summer, Voit was tasked with proving himself in the spring and former Yankees prospect Greg Bird stood in the way of playing time. However, once again Voit has pushed through the uncertainty and succeeded in overcoming the challenge. While Voit's name is in the lineup every day, it's not simply because Bird is on the injured list.
Dating back to last season, Voit's offensive prowess has been outstanding and quite consistent, having reached base in 40 straight games through Tuesday's contest in Arizona. In 259 plate appearances since the day he took over at first base (Aug. 24, 2018), Voit is hitting .314 with a .409 on-base percentage and .649 slugging percentage with 22 home runs and 56 RBI. According to FanGraphs, Voit's wRC+ of 182 and his wOBA of .442 each ranks sixth among all players during the span.
This season, Voit's ranks among MLB first basemen with a minimum of 100 plate appearances is impressive - wOBA (sixth with .387), wRC+ (sixth with 144), home runs (tied for fourth with eight) and RBI (second with 24). Voit has invariably risen to the occasion on a daily basis, a welcomed occurrence for any club, especially one decimated with injuries like the Yankees.
There is no denying that Voit's abilities at the plate have made a huge impact for the Yankees since he took control of the job at first base, but there is little doubt that his shortcomings on defense tend to downgrade his overall performance.
Defensive metrics are critical of Voit's performance at first base (-2 defensive runs so far this season and -7 last season), but there is room for improvement, something that he worked hard to accomplish over the offseason. There are moments when Voit looks to have turned the corner at the position and others where his body build doesn't seem to lend to the quick step often needed at the position.
Despite the fielding issues, Voit has cemented himself as the Yankees' first baseman now and for the foreseeable future. Voit's production on offense more than makes up for the occasional error, lapse of judgement or physical limitations on defense.
In a game steeped in hard-hit balls, on-base percentage and simply the ability to create runs, Voit is currently among the better players in the game. The Yankees have reaped the benefits of analyzing Voit's minor-league history and stand to gain continued rewards from climbing aboard his massive frame, which appears quite able to handle any load.
The Luke Voit experiment has concluded and the results are resoundingly positive.