Good morning, Vebers and Veberettes. Veberines? We’ll stick with the ‘ettes’ suffix, I think.
I hope you’ll all forgive me a rather abbreviated post this morning; I’m currently dealing with a couple situations that have put me in a rather grumpy frame of mind, and also into a time crunch. I have a tire that needs patching, a PlayStation Network account that has apparently been hacked (speaking of, if the person who hacked my account is reading this, you can keep the $50 you charged to my PayPal account; just put the username and password back the way it was so I don’t have to deal with it. I’m literally more irritated by the hassle than the fact you stole 50 bucks from me, which I suppose should technically offer me some solace and perspective into the fact my life isn’t all that bad, if I can afford to not worry about 50 dollars), and a dentist appointment that I really do need to make. So, not a great morning for your ol’ pal Aaron, and so I’m bringing out a short piece I was keeping in my pocket to potentially use as part of a longer thing.
Anyhow, not too long ago — as in, the last thing I wrote, just a couple days ago — I finished up writing the 2017 VEB top prospects list, and I’m pretty proud of how it turned out. I’m debating mentally, trying to convince myself I didn’t screw the pooch entirely by placing players in a completely wrong order than I know, with utter certainty, is the actual correct order this morning, but that happens every time I do one of these things. Eliezer Alvarez feels too low, I should have mentioned JJ Hardy when talking about Paul DeJong’s potential shortstop conversion, and in general everything I said and wrote is wrong, wrong, wrong. But overall, pretty happy with the list.
In the comments section of, I think, the wrapup post, one of our esteemed community members commented on being disappointed not to see Luke Voit, the local kid from Wildwood, make his way onto either the list proper or the just-missed section. My answer was that Voit was probably my first hitter out, along with Ian McKinney as my first pitcher out. Josey put McKinney on her personal list, so I’ll let her answer that eternal question, what’s so great about this guy?, but I thought Voit was worth taking a closer look at. He’s exactly the sort of prospect who should probably show up in Carson Cistulli’s Fringe Five, and that’s probably right where he belongs. Voit isn’t the sort of prospect who’s going to light up anyone’s radar with big-time tools, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance he could be a useful player. So....
Luke Voit, 1B
6’3”, 225 lbs; R/R; 13 February 1991
Relevant Stats: 9.5% BB, 15.2% K, .180 ISO, .297/.372/.477, .323 BABIP, 145 wRC+ in 546 PA (Double A Springfield)
So, what’s so great about this guy?
If you’ve been reading these scouting reports for the past month or so, you might notice that the relevant stats line is longer than usual. I tried very hard this year not to bog things down with too many numbers; rather, I tried to highlight just a couple stats that give some idea of the shape of player we’re talking about in any given case. But now, for Luke Voit, we have enough stats they don’t even all fit on a single line. So what gives?
Well, the reason is simple. Luke Voit needs numbers. The numbers are what make Luke Voit interesting.
Luke Voit (real name Louis, and here’s the player page link, since FanGraphs’ search function is so useless that ‘Luke Voit’ will get you absolutely nowhere), was a college senior when the Cardinals drafted him back in 2013, and he’s not exactly shot up the ranks of the farm system since that time. Thus, he will turn 26 years old the day pitchers and catchers report, which is a pretty big strike against him. He’s also probably limited defensively to first base (or perhaps a 2016 Matt Holliday-level left field), which is another pretty big strike. He’s a right-handed hitter, as well, so isn’t going to have the platoon advantage the majority of the time, which is yet another strike.
Since this is baseball, I feel obligated to point out that three strikes usually means you’re out. But in the case of Voit, he just might be able to overcome that. Partially because he actually doesn’t strike out all that often.
First, some video. via minorleaguebaseball:
Okay, so first things first: that was a bomb. One home run doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about a player, but in this case it does tell us that Luke Voit has the raw power to hit a baseball a country mile. Or a city one, for that matter.
More importantly than the power, though, is the swing plane. Admittedly, it always looks better when a player is blasting dingers, but even putting that aside, we can see this is a swing plane that puts the barrel of the bat in the strike zone and keeps it there a long time.
Second, take a look at the hand load. Voit doesn’t do a whole lot with his hands, but what he does do he makes count. I’m usually not a huge fan of hitters who start with the bat sitting on their shoulders, but that’s because the first move is usually to bring the bat up into a position closer to vertical, often creating a very steep angle down into the hitting zone. Voit lifts his hands a bit to initiate his swing, but the actual load part has him bringing his hands back rather than up, and the position from which he starts his swing is about as good as one can hope for. I’m sure some observers might question the slight bat wrap at the back, but I’m not particularly concerned.
Voit used to hit with a higher leg kick, and while I’m usually a fan of leg kicks as timing mechanisms in general, the simpler, lower leg lift Voit used this season seems to have clicked. When I saw him play at Palm Beach two years ago (briefly, I admit), he seemed to overcommit to the fastball, leaving him vulnerable to anything offspeed. Now, this new swing puts him in a much better position to react to the speed of the offering. It’s not a huge change from his old swing, but it’s clear Voit made some modest renovations prior to the 2016 season, and it looks like those renovations paid off.
After repeating High A in 2015 (which was interesting, given that he hit well enough the first time around, but perhaps there were swing changes already in the pipeline then, and the club wanted to keep him with a certain coach or something), Voit moved up to a new, higher level of competition in 2016 and took his own performance to a higher level as well.
The biggest — and best — change was the reduction in strikeouts Voit managed this past season. He’s never been a really high whiff sort of player, but he dropped his K rate from 19.3% in 2015 to just 15.2% this past season. That may not look like an enormous gap, but those four percentage points amount to better than a 20% drop in strikeouts for Voit, while moving up to the toughest jump in the minors. His walks fell a bit, too, but that’s often to be expected in the high minors. He made so much authoritative contact in 2016 that I have a really hard time finding much to complain about with his boss fight.
It’s interesting, watching Voit hit even a couple times a week on milb.tv; looking at the size of him, and the exceedingly obvious strength he occasionally displays hitting moon shots like the one in that video we just watched, one might expect him to be a true slugger, selling out for light tower power. But instead, Voit hits for above-average power, yes, but maintains an all-fields approach that feels very Cardinaly already.
In fact, if pressed for a hitter Voit really reminds me of, I wouldn’t have to dip very far into the Redbird past to pull out Allen Craig’s name. Like Craig, Voit has a slightly unorthodox swing that will likely draw some shade from the broadcaster crowd, but also like Craig he simply makes it work.
Defensively, though, things are a little less rosy. Whereas Allen Craig came in as a player completely ready for a part-time role at multiple positions (where he may not have often been good, but damned if he didn’t stand there all the same), Voit is much more limited positionally. That makes it trickier to see a path to playing time, even if he hits at Memphis this year the way he hit at Springfield last season. With the Cardinals seemingly intent on playing Matt Carpenter every day at first to try and upgrade the defense, a player like Voit finds himself in a tough spot.
In fact, Voit finds himself in, essentially, the Matt Adams spot. Who also isn’t a terrible comparison for Voit.
A batting line almost half again as productive as the average for the league, even in the minors and even even with the time-adjusted caveat of 26 years old, is usually enough to get a player noticed, and mentioned, in a big way. Voit, though, has quietly fallen through the cracks a bit. It’s not hard to see why, either. The profile is not a very dynamic one, and he’s stuck down at the end of the defensive spectrum. The bat, though, played in Springfield, and usually when a bat plays in Springfield that bat will play in the big leagues.
I’m not going to jump to any conclusions about Voit just yet; right now he’s as much 2016 Matt Adams as 2011 Allen Craig. But considering this is a player I couldn’t help but think of as something like the 40th best prospect in the system, seeing as how he missed his chance to just miss, even a future that turns out to be something similar to Matt Adams would have to be considered a rousing success.
How about we close this out with some more dingers. Opposite field this time, even.