MINNEAPOLIS — Luke Voit is expected to begin a rehab on Tuesday, so his return to first base is not far off.
And while that’s good news for the Yankees, there’s no denying that the team has problems at first base.
Voit has played in just a dozen games this season, sidelined by a torn meniscus in his left knee and currently a strained left hypotenuse. And even while he played, Voit couldn’t find his way at the plate, with only one extra basehit and 15 strikeouts in 50 at bats.
The search for a viable replacement has included attempts from Jay Bruce (now retired), Mike Ford (now in the minors), Miguel Andujar (now in left field), and Chris Gittens, the minor leaguer who could be in the lineup on Thursday. up against Gemini lefty – and ex-Yankee – JA Happ.
None of these options have proved acceptable, forcing DJ LeMahieu to start most games first of every Yankee (19 heading into Thursday).
LeMahieu’s hardships this season are known and his numbers look even worse compared to expected first base production.
Position wouldn’t be a big deal for the Yankees this season. Voit’s health has been a concern in recent years, from the core injury that hit his second half of 2019 to the plantar fasciitis he dealt with last season, but he was generally able to stay on the pitch and be productive. to be.
Fangraphs predicted that Voit would hit 31 home runs and drive 97 runs this season, which would add up to an OPS of .885.
Those numbers are clearly out of reach, but the bigger problem now is getting Voit back and keeping him for as much of the season as a whole as possible.
At least part of the Yankees’ troubles on record are due to Voit’s absence, something Aaron Boone has often noted, citing Voit’s record discipline and strength.
According to Fangraphs, Voit’s 1.8 WAR was second on the team last season, behind only LeMahieu’s 2.5. And he led the Yankees with a .610 slugging percentage, albeit with injured Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
Yankee’s first basemen came in on Thursday with an OPS of .516, ahead of only the Indians. Last year they were fifth best in the majors with an OPS of .902 and in 2019 they were at least in the middle of the pack with .812.
But LeMahieu’s production has fallen off a cliff, and aside from showing some (very) incidental power, Ford had become a strikeout machine. And Gittens, the 27-year-old slugger whose exit speed matched Stanton’s in spring practice, looked outclassed in his nine at bats without a hit, scoring five strikeouts. He remained on the roster as of Thursday afternoon.
The lineup showed signs of life in the first two games in Minnesota, with the caveat that it came against last place Twins.
If they stay at the bottom end of the league in production at the beginning, though, that won’t last.