With talk of the three best infielders being traded on the same day, Chris Archer and the Padres, and whether or not the Nationals should sell filling all the trade discussion on a relatively slow day leading up to the deadline, there was one minor move on Saturday night that caught my eye.
The New York Yankees tonight announced that they have acquired right-handed hitting 1B Luke Voit and international signing bonus pool money from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for LHP Chasen Shreve and RHP Giovanny Gallegos.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 29, 2018
It’s nothing sexy in terms of relevance to the other deals going on around this time, but I’m intrigued. Looking at the Cardinals side first, they receive a reliever in Chasen Shreve whose departure mainly has to do with him being the worst reliever in a historically great bullpen. This doesn’t mean that Shreve is no good or anything, as he does at least have some amount of upside with decent K-rates, past success, and promising projections. The Cardinals also get Giovanny Gallegos, another departure that was a byproduct of an insanely deep bullpen; a reliever that has posted some gaudy numbers throughout his minor league career.
In return for the two bullpen pieces, the Yankees get Quad-A first baseman Luke Voit along with some international signing bonus pool money. The initial grab to me in this deal was Voit, a former 22nd round pick by the Cardinals who had a slow climb up the minor league level, consistently facing younger competition (which I know is always a red flag for guys putting up good numbers). He’s spent the majority of the past two seasons in AAA, while also receiving two stints in the big leagues. Never really highly-regarded as a prospect, Voit clawed his way to opportunity with the Cardinals after posting a huge season in AAA last year.
Top 10 wRC+ in the PCL in 2017
|Garrett Cooper||Brewers (AAA)||26||320||173|
|Oswaldo Arcia||Diamondbacks (AAA)||26||400||165|
|Ryan McMahon||Rockies (AAA)||22||314||161|
|Luke Voit||Cardinals (AAA)||26||307||152|
|Derek Fisher||Astros (AAA)||23||384||147|
|Christian Walker||Diamondbacks (AAA)||26||592||147|
|Franchy Cordero||Padres (AAA)||22||419||146|
|Lewis Brinson||Brewers (AAA)||23||340||146|
|Jorge Soler||Royals (AAA)||25||327||145|
|Carlos Perez||Angels (AAA)||26||300||144|
Finally reaching the big leagues at the age of 26, the surface results were underwhelming, especially as a first baseman. He slashed .246/.306/.430 on his way to a 94 wRC+ and 0.3 fWAR in 62 plate appearances. The decent contact skills that he posted in the minors faded away against more advanced competition, as he struck out in 1⁄4 of his plate appearances. But it’s what I found diving deeper that got me interested in Voit’s skills. The underlying batted ball results he boasted last year were nothing short of terrific in a small sample size: out of 466 hitters with 50 batted balls in the majors last year, only 10 had a higher average exit velocity than Voit.
Top 20 Exit Velocities in 2017
The expected numbers suggested he was unlucky too, as his xwOBA-wOBA (.316-.342) and xSLG-SLG (.430-.480) were both near the top fifth of baseball in differential marks last season.
Jumping to the story of this season for Voit, without a spot on the major league roster and a quick early season stint on the disabled list with an oblique injury, he’s found himself spending the majority of the season stuck in AAA. Since the injury, the season has big progression for him. It seems like a clear possibility that the oblique could have been hampering his power early on.
- April: .205/.354/.256
- May: .253/.344/.380
- June: .364/.383/.659
- July: .361/.465/.667
Since the beginning of June, no hitter at the AAA level has been hotter than Voit, owning a .515 wOBA in that span. He’s shown an impressive blend of contact skills and power during this stretch.
I guess the next step would be figuring out how Voit could service the Yankees. Aaron Judge just recently hit the disabled list and is likely to be out for a decent stretch during a very critical time. His duties in right field are likely to be filled by Giancarlo Stanton, leaving a void at DH. While Luke Voit will be joining a new AAA team, the short-term answer for now seems like Neil Walker, who is swinging a hot bat, but he currently owns a 74 wRC+ on the season. If all fails later on, he could possibly be an option there down the road. It’s probably worth mentioning he’ll add security at first base for them, with an injury-prone Greg Bird currently sitting there.
I don’t know what role Voit will play for the Yankees, if any at all. That won’t stop me from being enticed by this trade though. My favorite type of deals are the ones that don’t clearly have a buying or selling acquisition, with teams trading for pieces that will help them in the immediate future. I also think there is an underrated market in baseball for AAA smashers. We’ve seen guys like J.D. Martinez, Jose Martinez, and Jesus Aguilar come to fruition at later stages of their careers, making a huge impact for teams at very little cost. At the worst, the Yankees added some depth here
27-year-old first basemen stuck in AAA aren’t always the most enticing options, but the Yankees acquired a bat that has shown he can hold his own against major league pitching, while showing at the same time that he’s too advanced for AAA. Luke Voit most likely very well might turn out to be nothing, but for now, he’s one of the hottest hitters in baseball. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.