Winning their last World Series Title in 2009, the New York Yankees have faltered with success over the course of the last decade, struggling to match the feared dominance they wreaked in the 90s and early 2000s. Being one of the greatest franchises in baseball, the Yankees are faced with abnormal expectations and standards every single season that place them in a league of their own. This, of course, includes making the playoffs every year. And for the Yankees, the previous decade hasn’t been very smooth in that regard. As many Yankee fans know, the regular season almost doesn’t even matter; what matters is October baseball. And for four straight years, spanning from 2013 all the way up to 2017, the Yankees only clinched a playoff berth once.
However, that’s all changed. For the last three seasons, the Yankees have evolved and reemerged as the powerhouse club they are notoriously known for being. Posting 100 wins over the last two seasons, this dynasty is nearing the verge of a World Series appearance; it’s just a matter of when. With a super stacked team in place, the Yankees don’t really have any holes to fill. From their outfielders, to their infielders, to their starting rotation and bullpen, the Yankees have one of the most complete and dynamic rosters in the MLB.
That being said, the Yankees have a handful of young players that have only posted great numbers over the course of one season. This includes Gio Urshela, Miguel Andújar, and Luke Voit. Although Urshela and Andujar have displayed remarkable versatility and remain to be two bright studs in the making, Voit hasn’t been as successful, and out of the three, continues to be the biggest question mark for the Yankees moving forward.
This might not appear to be such a big deal for the Yankees, who have always found a way to recruit strong, young prospects to replace their injured or slumping starters (as we saw last season for example). But the Yankees are finally at the point in their franchise development where they are just fine-tuning their lineup in order to produce the best team to win a title. And that begins with having a durable foundation of starters in each and every position that you can count on offensively and defensively throughout the course of a long season. With Chris Carter, Greg Bird and Tyler Austin in and out at the position, the Yankees have been looking for their next, reliable first baseman since Mark Teixeira was on the team in 2016. Although Voit has shown he can fill that much-needed role, he seemed to blow out of steam as the season progressed, failing to produce on a consistent basis.
Despite having his best season to date since he came into the league, Voit didn’t finish the year on a good note, hitting .194 with a .326 OBP and collecting only 8 RBIs in the month of September, capping off a downward spiral that began back in July (ESPN). Voit also led the team in strikeouts with a total of 142 in 118 appearances and was third in strikeouts during spring training this year prior to COVID-19 setting back the start of the season (ESPN). The good news is that Voit is still quite young and has room to grow. But as many power hitters know, these types of slumps can be very challenging to overcome or even career-ending, and Voit has to be careful that he doesn’t get stuck with the need to crush the ball every time he’s at bat. Launch angle is important, but with the type of power and strength that Voit has, making contact with the ball is all he needs to do in order to slap them out of the park. Essentially, if Voit can develop a better contact swing, he could become an even better hitter that brings more than just power. But this challenge remains to be his biggest yet and will determine if he is cut out for the role the Yankees are in need for.
Whether Voit can overcome this, certainly still remains to be unclear. But there’s reason to be optimistic. Although he has struggled with consistency, Voit has developed quite nicely over his past three seasons in the MLB. After a quiet rookie year with the Cardinals in 2017, mustering only 4 HRs and 18 RBIs with a .246 average in 62 games played, Voit turned it up a notch in 2018 (ESPN). Logging in only 8 games with the Cardinals before the Yankees signed him, Voit took full advantage of the minimal 39 games he played in New York and decided to show Yankee fans why he belonged here (ESPN). In only 132 at-bats, Voit hit 14 HRs and collected 33 RBIs, posting a .333 average along with .405 OBP (ESPN). This made the Yankees realize that Voit has something special to offer and in 2019, they granted him the starting role at first base. Even with the pressure to perform at the highest level in arguably the biggest market in baseball, Voit didn’t shy away from this challenge. Setting new career highs in HRs, RBIs, walks and WAR, 2019 was still a big year for Voit, who once again, exhibited that he’s just getting better and better (ESPN). Moreover, Voit has shown glimpses of impressive athleticism defensively, whether laying out for a diving stop or making a near full-on split to scoop a ball out of the dirt. What’s important to recognize here, is that Voit has gotten better ever since he set foot in the league and at a rapid pace. As he enters the prime of his career, Voit will seek to persevere once again, and there’s no reason why he can’t.
What remains to be fascinating about Voit, is that he didn’t rise to where he got to today on just any ordinary baseball team; he did so on debatably the most competitive and prestigious baseball club in the league. The Yankees are cut-throat when it comes to winning and demand a playoff berth every season at the very least. Just to give you an idea of their high demands, the Yankees have never won less than 84 games since 2000, an astonishing feat that most MLB franchises simply dream of accomplishing. In other words, the Yankees don’t have time to lose; and unless you’re one of their Top 10 players on their payroll, you are disposable if you do not perform. And the mere fact that Voit was able to perform so well at such a demanding level to begin with, shows that he’s cut out for this team. Resembling former first baseman Jason Giambi in many ways, Luke Voit makes for a great fit with the New York Yankees and has everything he needs to be the man for the job.