MEMORIAL POLICE – Luke Voit is expected to begin a rehabilitation period on Tuesday, so his return to first base is not too far away.
And while that’s good news for the Yankees, the continuing problems the team has at first base cannot be denied.
Voit has played in just a dozen games this season, sidelined by a torn meniscus in his left knee and currently a strained left slant. And even when he was playing, Voit was unable to find his punch at the plate with only an extra base hit and 15 strikes in 50 appearances.
The search for a viable replacement has included attempts from Jay Bruce (now retired), Mike Ford (now a minor), Miguel Andujar (now in the left field) and Chris Gittens, the minor career that could be in the lineup Thursday against Twins lefty ̵
None of these options have proved acceptable, forcing DJ LeMahieu to start most games first of any Yankee (19 on his way to Thursday).
LeMahieu’s difficulties this season are well known and his number looks even worse compared to the expected production at first base.
The position should not be a significant issue for the Yankees this season. Voit’s health has been a concern in recent years, from the core injury that affected his second half of 2019, to the plantar fasciitis he treated last season, but he has typically been able to stay on track and be productive.
The Fangraphs expected Voit to hit 31 homers and run in the 97 race this season to go along with a .885 OPS.
These numbers are clearly out of reach, but the bigger problem now is getting Voit back and keeping him in one piece for as much of the rest of the season as possible.
At least part of the Yankees’ record problems are due to Voit’s absence, something Aaron Boone has often noted, referring to Voit’s record discipline and power.
According to the Fangraphs, Voit’s WAR was 1.8 second on the team last season, behind only LeMahieus 2.5. And he led the Yankees with a .610 slugging percentage, albeit with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge battling injuries.
The Yankees’ first basemen went in on Thursday with an OPS of .516 ahead of only the Indians. Just last year, they were the fifth best in majors with an OPS of .902, and in 2019, they were at least in the middle of the pack at .812.
But LeMahieu’s production has fallen off a cliff, and apart from showing some (very) occasional forces, Ford had become a strike machine. And Gittens, the 27-year-old slugger whose starting speed rivaled Stantons during spring training, has looked overmatched in his nine appearances without a hit and strikes out five times. He remained on the list on Thursday afternoon.
The lineup showed signs of life in the first two games in Minnesota with the warning that it was coming against the twins who were last there.
However, if they remain close to the bottom of the league in production in the first place, it will not last.