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What is Luke Voit’s fantasy potential next year?

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I really can’t tell.

Getty Images/Peter Rogers Illustrations

This has been quite the interesting season for Luke Voit.

I always enjoy the obscure draftees making a name for themselves and that is what he has done. The 665th overall pick in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft out of Missouri State, Luke got his first taste of the pros last season taking 124 AB with four home runs, 18 RBIs and runs and a .246 avg. Nothing overtly special right now. In 2018, still playing with St. Louis he was very much a backup playing just 11 AB with 1 HR, 2 runs and 3 RBIs batting .182.

What Caught My Eye

This all changed in the July 27th trade where he was acquired by the New York Yankees (along with some bonus money for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos). He was immediately sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a week before being promoted to the big leagues. He provided backup play for Greg Bird and played intermittently over the next three weeks with 3 hits, 2 RBIs, 2 runs, 6 strikeouts and 2 walks at 16 at bats.

Then on August 24th it all changed.

Remember this date everyone, for it is EITHER the day Luke Voit emerged as an All-Star or the moment he did what many before him have done – show a promising 2 months before returning to obscurity. From August 24th until the end of the season he played in 32 games, batting 129 times. Across those 129 AB he had 40 hits, 14 HR, 26 runs, 31 RBIs batting .351 Avg, .426 OBP and a .763 SLG.

I’m going to pause to make sure I properly emphasize this next point. Across that time frame Luke was:

  • 2nd in Home Runs behind only Christian Yelich
  • 9th in runs, behind the likes of Charlie Blackmon, Anthony Rendon, George Springer and Mookie Betts
  • 3rd in RBIs behind Christian Yelich and Stephen Piscotty
  • 7th in batting average; 16th in hits
  • 60th in singles, 107th in doubles
  • 60th in walks and 36th in strikeouts.

Background

Now as I mentioned, plenty of players have had excellent short-lived stats only to not really pan out. Most recently Aledmys Diaz, Mark Reynolds, Eric Thames, Devon Travis, Hunter Renfroe AAAAAND Greg Bird all come to mind. Now these players are all still in the league and aren’t terrible (well, maybe Greg Bird is), but they are not the All-Star caliber players that once got everyone on board.

Since we are in the offseason and have months to stew on this, here is what I know right now:

  1. Voit had a high BABIP this year: .381 BUT he has had a high BABIP at Triple-A and up pretty much consistently (with the exception of his time with the Cardinals last year) over the last two years. He had a great BABIP in Triple-A for the Cardinals and Yankees in 2017 and 2018.
  2. He has a very average K-rate (26.7%) and BB rate (10.6%). Nothing overtly high or low here so he is an average hitter reading the strike zone.
  3. His average is solid, he has been above .270 at every level every year (again with the exception of his 2017 time with the St. Louis Cardinals)
  4. He had an Outside swing of 27% this year, fairly close to the MLB average of 30%, a Z-swing of 78% vs. an MLB average of 65% so he’s not afraid to swing when he sees a pitch in the zone. This is good because his contact outside the zone of 56% is lower than the 65% MLB average. His SwStr of 14.7% is higher than the 9.5% so he is not ultimately afraid to swing the bat.
  5. He saw a myriad of different pitches excelling with fastballs and sliders, struggling with knuckleballs and splits. This falls in line with his swing-first mentality, he sees the cleanest pitches best and falls for the messy ones.

2018 Arrives

The biggest change in 2018 was Voit’s ISO numbers. This past year, it was .350 despite never really hitting much above .180 prior to this. That is a hefty jump, especially coinciding with the player playing regularly at the highest level which is when one would expect their numbers to dip.

I have two theories here, the first being that the juiced balls have served Luke well and his offseason work entering this season where he tried to reduce his launch angle helped his HR/FB rate go from 15% to 30%. The second theory is that he took the MLB by storm over the last month and a half hitting at a time when many teams are utilizing prospects in lieu of stars as they have clinched or been eliminated already. Once teams have an offseason to watch his hitting metrics they will make the proper adjustments as pitchers do to a player who is having a great two month stretch. The final point I’ll make is that around this time last year I had picked up Ozzie Albies and was optimistic about him (and it seemed to take the collective fantasy world until December to see the metrics and be all in on him) so there is a part of me wondering if Luke Voit is the next breakout star who really came out of seemingly nowhere. Call it confirmation bias if you will.

Unfortunately I have more questions than answers with Luke, and could just as easily see him becoming a mainstay with the Yankees as another Greg Bird, highly touted but unable to live up to the initial hype.