Luke Voit is not on any Cardinal top prospect list. The slugging first baseman of the Springfield Cardinals (Class AA) may change that soon.
Voit, drafted in the 22nd round out of Missouri State in 2012 as a catcher, switched to first base and the results have been dramatic. Voit is hitting .275 this year with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs, helping lead the young Cards to a first half division title.
Voit credits the offensive surge with getting out from behind the plate. He said the mental and physical stress of catching left him little time to focus on hitting. “I caught in college and it really wears you down,” he said. But that has changed, to superb results, leading to his selection to appear in the Midwest League Home Run Derby Tuesday night at Hammon Field in Springfield, Mo.
“The move to first really allowed my hitting to develop,” he said. “I used to have a really wide stance like Jeff Bagwell. Our hitting coach suggested I narrow that stance and use a leg kick (to improve timing). After a couple of days, it just clicked.”
Voit came up big in a couple of key games down the first half stretch as the young Cardinals put on a furious rush to overtake and defeat Tulsa (Dodgers) for the division title. Manager Dann Bilardello credited Voit and all of the young Redbirds for the way they handled the pressure. “We have some veterans here who really helped us with our mental skills,” Voit said. “They told us to trust what we were doing and believe in ourselves. And I can’t say enough about (Bilardello’s) leadership. We didn’t feel pressure to hit. Every time, we were just looking for a quality at-bat.”
Springfield won its last five games and Tulsa lost its last four, giving the Redbirds a 41-29 record and a chance to compete in the playoffs at the end of the year.
“Awesome,” was the word Voit used to characterize his feelings about competing in the All-Star Home Run Derby Tuesday. But the 25-year-old is not done sharpening his skills as he looks to advance to the next level.
“I need to stay with my approach. Sometimes I get frustrated and get pull-happy or roll over ground balls. I’m learning how to play a little left field so I can expand my skills. I also need to improve my defense and my power hitting because corner positions (first and third base) are power positions in the big leagues.” With an OPS of .803, Voit is on his way to achieving his goal.
Voit has also learned another valuable lesson that many young players don’t. “You know, there are some guys in the game who are faster or stronger than others, but pretty much we are all on the same playing level. What separates players is their mental (approach) in handling defeat. People are going to make diving catches on you on you’re going to go 0-15. The secret is can you remain positive during all that? Players ask themselves what they’re doing wrong and they make changes in their swing or approach. They might not be doing anything wrong. It all evens out.”
Voit, who is 6-3 and weighs 225 pounds, has consistently hit at or above .270 in his four-year career but has seen his power numbers increase dramatically. That development and quiet, confident approach will soon force him onto the Cards’ top prospect list.