One of the bright spots in the New York Yankees 2020 season has been the emergence of Luke Voit as an unlikely American League MVP candidate.
The New York Yankees are expected to be regular participants in postseason baseball. But that almost never came to be in this coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Injuries and sloppy play have been overshadowed by Luke Voit who has become an unlikely American League MVP candidate.
At the start of the season, it was the usual suspects for potential MVP candidates (Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres) on the Yankees roster. But no mention of Voit until now.
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Voit was the Last Slugger Standing
He was the last slugger standing as the New York Yankees lost Judge (calf), Stanton (hamstring) and Torres (quad) to significant time on the IL this season. It’s scary to think where the Yanks would be in the standings if Voit didn’t have a break-through season.
During the rough stretches, the Yankees were getting beaten in all facets of the game. The defense was lackluster, the hitting was non-existent and the pitching was inconsistent. The hole they were digging for themselves seemed too deep to get out of without some assistance. Voit became the guiding light as the Yankees crawled their way back into the playoffs.
This is how good the 29-year old right-handed hitter has been in 2020: he batted .277 with 22 HRs (led the majors), 52 RBIs, .610 SLG and .948 OPS. These numbers confirm how locked in Voit has been all season, especially when the Yankees batting order resembled more their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre affiliate than a major league lineup.
How desperate was Yankees manager Aaron Boone to find some form of offense. He batted Voit lead-off when DJ LeMahieu was sidelined with a thumb injury. His reasoning was to gain some balance in the lineup and the first baseman’s batting approach offered the best chance to score runs early in contests.
The Brilliance of Voit’s At-bats
Voit can hit to all fields as he has shown to handle lefty and righty pitching. Voit has tremendous bat-to-ball skills as he does a great job of laying the bat head in the zone and driving the baseball upon impact. Often, the results cannot stay within the confines of most major league ballparks.
At times, Voit has looked tired with a slow bat at the plate. Usually, that means he is not squaring up on the ball. But Voit has rebounded nicely to get hot for the Yankees during the stretch run in September.
Since his acquisition in a July trade with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2018 season, Voit has been nothing short of sensational. In 221 games played with the Yanks, Voit has batted .281, 57 HRs, 147 RBIs, with .573 SLG and .917 OPS. Yes, he had struggles in the field, but improvement has been made with his range off the bag and digging throws out of the dirt. The Pinstripes have found themselves a first baseman.
AL MVP Honors is a Lofty Goal
Being named AL MVP will be such a tremendous honor for Voit. Yes, Mike Trout, Jose Abreu and Shane Beiber might ahead of him as the favorites, but Voit has a legitimate chance to capture the award.
He has less room for error than the other candidates. However, voters need to take into consideration that Voit had no lineup support for the majority of the season. He needed to produce or the New York Yankees were not going to score runs on most nights. Voit met the challenge and led the team in runs-batted-in.
In a normal season, a packed Yankee Stadium would cheering his name when announced prior to an at-bat. Every hit would garner attention and enhance his MVP candidacy. But that was not an option in 2020. Still, Voit has been special to watch from a distance.
As the Yanks head into October baseball, expect him to continue to hit in the clutch, much like he has done all summer long.