Could Luke Voit Help Solve Some of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Problems at the Plate?

Feb 14, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; A St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap is seen during Spring Training workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 14, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; A St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap is seen during Spring Training workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Could unheralded prospect Luke Voit help inject some energy into a stale Cardinals lineup?

The St. Louis Cardinals have had major struggles at the plate thus far through 2017, hitting for a majors-worst .209 batting average and NL-worst .617 OPS through their first 13 games. However, their Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, has been much more successful in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League during the early going, hitting a league-best 16 homers with a solid .741 OPS through 12 games.

The leader of the pack thus far has been first baseman Luke Voit, a product of St. Louis’s Lafayette High School who played his collegiate ball at Missouri State. The 26-year-old Voit, who is somewhat reminiscent of a righthanded-hitting version of Matt Adams, has posted an impressive .324/.457/.676 slash line with three homers through his first 46 plate appearances of 2017.

Voit looks to be on track to build off of his dominant 2016 season, when he posted a .297/.372/.477 slash line with a career-high 19 homers in 546 plate appearances. While he was a bit old for the Texas League, it’s difficult to pinpoint any weaknesses that he had at the plate last year.

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Voit wasn’t a hot commodity by any means back when he was selected in the 22nd round of the 2013 draft, and while the Cardinals have given off plenty of signals that they’re intrigued by his potential, he didn’t even crack MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 organizational prospects list this year. Since he really began to discover his power in 2015, though, he’s moved up one level per year and has been an impactful hitter at every one of those levels.

Perhaps there’s a hole in his swing that scouts who watch him every night have picked up, but there’s nothing obvious that stands out just by watching a few of his at-bats from the early part of this season. His swing is a bit odd, as he holds the handle of the bat just above his waistline, but his power is the real deal–more impressive than that of any player on the Cardinals’ roster, with the possible exception of Randal Grichuk. (By the way, Voit uses Nelly as his walk-up music, just as any St. Louis native should.)

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Then again, though, Voit’s lack of prospect status might just be because he’s widely assumed to be limited defensively to first base. And if that’s the case, the Cardinals shouldn’t hold back, because while he’s not necessarily a liability, Matt Carpenter is by no means a world beater at first.  (For what it’s worth, Voit has also collected quite a few more minor-league reps in left field than Matt Adams ever did, as he started 12 games there in Springfield last year.)

Obviously, the Cardinals aren’t going to bench Carpenter to make room for Voit at first base. But while GM John Mozeliak made a big deal of having Carpenter settle in at first base this offseason after he was shuttled around the infield last year, might it make sense to move Carpenter back to his natural position of third base (at least for a little while) and see what Voit is capable of accomplishing at first? That would allow them to bench Jhonny Peralta, he of the .120 batting average and .305 OPS, and it would infuse some new blood into a lineup that has generally looked sluggish this season, even in Monday night’s 2-1 win over the Pirates.

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Granted, two of the other well-performing hitters in Memphis’s lineup, Patrick Wisdom and Paul DeJong, are both capable of playing third base, so that might be a better solution to the Cardinals’ Peralta problem than promoting Voit and moving Carpenter. But based on their minor-league track records, Voit has shown the greatest ability to make a dynamic impact at the plate, so if the Cardinals are looking to jumpstart their offense, it just might make sense to give the St. Louisan a chance if he maintains his high level of production over the next couple weeks.