Despite the fact that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game on Wednesday: “I don’t even know, in my mind, if I look at it as a competition,’’ surely Greg Bird and Luke Voit must view it as a virtual life and death struggle, with the loser being assigned to AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre to begin the season.
The New York Yankees’ first base position battle is still in full effect:
The first base job for the New York Yankees is a much-coveted position around Major League Baseball and if Bird and Voit aren’t fighting tooth and nail to win it, they don’t deserve it.
Bird and Voit are both focused on contending for the position: Bird gained 20 lbs in the offseason to bring more muscle to the plate, while Voit slimmed down to have more movement at first base. So far, these strategies have worked out well for both players.
While Boone is “just excited both guys are in such a good place,” I’m excited to see Greg Bird hitting .346/.452/.577 with a 1.029 OPS in 11 games so far this spring. Bird’s glove is as solid as always, add to it nine hits, three doubles, one home run, and five RBIs in those 11 games and you’ve got Bird off to a solidly spectacular spring.
Voit, on the other hand, would appear to have the job in hand. Brian Cashman made it clear in the offseason that the job was Voit’s to lose on the strength of his performance across 39 games for the Yankees in the second half of the season when he hit .333/.405/.689 with a 1.095 OPS and 14 home runs.
With Bird hitting just .199/.286/.386 in 2018 in 82 games in ’18, Voit virtually ran away with the job after the trade in the dog days of August and September with his extraordinary numbers. Voit hit a combined (St. Louis and Yankees) .322/.398/.671 with a 1.069 OPS in 47 games with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs – with the lion’s share of that damage being done wearing pinstripes.
Luke Voit was dominant last season for the Yankees:
Remember, Voit began his Yankee tenure last season going up and down from AAA-Scranton Wilkes-Barre. When he came over from the Cardinals, he had played in only eight games for them in ’18 with a .182/.308/.455 slash line and 1 home run. His breakout in the Bronx was as welcome as it was unexpected.
Voit, 28, is off to a solidly respectable start offensively this spring with a .273/.385/.545 slash line with a .930 OPS in nine games. He’s had six hits, 2 home runs, and 5 RBIs. Voit is proving to be reliable at the plate and flashing that power with the bat which propelled him to stardom last season.
The battle would seem to be on then between these two high performing athletes. The Yankees benefit from the battle for supremacy at first base being waged by Bird and Voit because whoever comes out on top is going to be the best man for the job without a doubt.
What’s exciting for fans is that the contenders are both producing and putting up good numbers – which for Bird fans is good news since they’ve waited patiently for several years to see him fulfill his potential to be a superstar lefty bat in the lineup.
For Voit fans, they are looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the Yankees when he has an entire season to perform.
Will it come down to the analytics? Will it come down to intangibles? Yankee fans will probably never know how the final decision is made, but the eye test tells me it’s going to go right down to the wire.