As incredible as it may sound, New York Yankees’ first baseman Luke Voit hit more home runs in 2020 (22) than he did in 2019, when he had 21. He did this in 62 (!) fewer games.
With a .277/.338/.610 slash line, a .393 wOBA, a 152 wRC+, 22 homers, 41 runs and 52 RBI, Voit wasn’t just a mixed-league asset in 2020, but also a real-life MVP candidate. He was extremely productive, and he did all this while battling plantar fasciitis in his right foot for much of the second half.
How did Voit go from hitting 21 home runs in 118 games in 2019 to mashing 22 in just 56 games last season? Easy. He was far more aggressive than ever.
Voit became a more aggressive hitter in 2020
Voit swung much more often in 2020 (52.1%) than in 2019 (47.4%). He also increased his zone-swing rate from 78.6% to 81.2% and swung at the first pitch in over half of his plate appearances (51.7%, per Baseball Savant).
Basically, Voit decided to attack pitchers right from the beginning, and the strategy paid off handsomely.
Luke Voit is the first player to 20 home runs in 2020 pic.twitter.com/QpCXqNiarl— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) September 18, 2020
You may think that pitchers are eventually going to adjust to Voit’s aggressiveness on the first pitch and throw him more breakers and pitches outside of the zone. And you may be right. But Voit has the tools to adjust back. He has good pitch recognition, and in 2020, improved his contact rate to 74.5% (from 66.7% in 2019) and lowered his swinging strike rate from 15.7% in 2019 to 13.3% last year. He knows how to work a count, he knows how to do damage to a pitch, and he will be just fine.
If I’m picking a first baseman to lead the pack in homers this season, I’m going with Luke Voit. Granted, his hard-hit rate and average exit velocity were both in the 52nd percentile in 2020, only slightly above-average. But the power was legit: the expected slugging was in the 96th percentile.
Luke Voit’s 2021 fantasy outlook
Other expected stats back up Voit’s 2020 success. His .374 xwOBA was in the top 8% of the league, and even his xBA of .284 was enough to place him in the 82nd percentile.
All of these stats came in a 60-game sample, which isn’t the biggest of the world, but they mean something. They show an evident change in approach by Voit, a formerly patient, borderline-passive hitter.
By now, you know that Voit won’t contribute to your stolen base tally. Few first basemen do. But despite being one of the premier sluggers in the game, he has a tolerable batting average floor and will do wonders with your runs and RBI totals by virtue of hitting in the middle of a powerful Yankees lineup every day.
Right now, I have Voit as my seventh-ranked first baseman. I’m tempted to put him above guys like Pete Alonso, and I truly believe he has the potential to finish the season as a top-five asset at the position when all is said and done.