The Brewers are vying for a playoff spot in 2023, and rightfully so. Despite coming up short last season, their roster is quite talented. Their playoff odds sit at 57% and their division odds at 37.6%, trailing only the Cardinals in the latter among NL Central squads. They’re led by a strong starting rotation, but the offense has at a least a few question marks. After trading for a potential bounceback candidate earlier this winter in Jesse Winker, they are hoping for the same in Luke Voit, who is joining Milwaukee this spring as a non-roster invite. After the worst offensive season in his professional career, Voit couldn’t land a guaranteed roster spot anywhere and will instead attempt to make a Brewers team in need of some offensive pop.
Voit is a good hitter. His recent track record might paint him as average, but injuries have limited his performance in consecutive years. Even though last season wasn’t nearly as productive as any of his years in New York, he still finished it with a 102 wRC+ in 568 plate appearances. And while it’s no longer realistic to assume good health from Voit, if he can sustain even semi-consistent health, he can be an offensive boost for the Brew Crew.
As it stands, the Brewers have a few options who will rotate between first base and designated hitter on a non-permanent basis, and none have the potential juice that Voit has. Let’s look at those options and how their ZiPS projection compares with Voit’s:
Assuming health, Tellez and Winker are the only hitters guaranteed to be in the lineup almost every game. Tellez performed well last year and has the advantageous platoon split; Milwaukee’s offense is highly dependent on him repeating his 2022 season. Winker is expected to be the most productive of the other options. He will likely move between the outfield and designated hitter (and probably spend more time doing the latter than playing the former), but if he hits anything like he did in Cincinnati and as ZiPS expects him to, the at-bats for Voit will be limited. Despite this, Winker and Tellez are both left-handed, leaving some room for Voit to get decent playing time.
That’s where Hiura and Brosseau come into play. With a career wRC+ of 65 against southpaws, the former is unplayable against them. Voit has a demonstrated history of reverse splits as well, but his 110 mark in his career far exceeds Hiura’s. Then there is Brosseau, whose bread and butter skill is mashing lefties. With a career 127 wRC+ against them and decent positional flexibility, he is likely the most versatile option for Craig Counsell. And while Brosseau has only appeared at first base a dozen or so times in his career, if I’m being completely candid, he is probably more viable at the position than Voit or Hiura. Those two are in the bottom decile of fielders in MLB; they are where they are for their bats. If their hitting cannot make up for the poor fielding, there isn’t incentive to play them.
I think that Voit could be the one to break out of this pack. Unlike his competition in Milwaukee, he already has previous big league performance that he can look back to as a blueprint. Here are his swing rates in different areas of the strike zone since 2018:
Voit Swing% By Zone
There might not be any glaring differences, but the one I find the most interesting is Voit’s shadow zone swing rate in his first two seasons. He is an extremely aggressive hitter; his swing rate in the heart of the zone is always 10 or so percentage points above league average. Nobody should try to change that, but his shadow zone swing rate has moved from average to above average by almost 10 percentage points as the years have gone on. That isn’t conducive for him to get to the best version of himself. His hitting style is all about rhythm, as he uses what I call a leg hover instead of the traditional leg kick or toe tap. If his leg hover timing is out of whack and he is swinging at a much higher rate on the edges of the strike zone, then he is likely to induce more mis-hits.
On the surface, Voit’s Barrel% has held steady, if not improved, despite his down year. But the percentage of pitches he gets under has jumped up significantly:
Voit Fly Balls
|Season||Avg. EV||Avg. LA||FB%||Under%|
On top of Voit having the highest Under% of his career, he is hitting more fly balls than ever. So what does that end up looking like overall? More can of corn fly balls. That’s not ideal for a hitter who needs his fly balls to convert into doubles and home runs. That said, American Family Field is a top-10 park for home runs. It’s possible this profile will be more giving to Voit, but either way, he should strive for staying away from pitches he can’t get his barrel to.
Voit may have struggled to find a guaranteed big league spot this offseason, but he may have a path to playing time in Milwaukee. While the team’s commitment to him is virtually non-existent, he is more than capable of convincing the Brewers to give him a shot if he is healthy. They need hitters, and Voit needs an opportunity. Let’s see how it plays out.