A 10 Part Breakdown of the Yankees Depth. Part 3: First Base

The New York Yankees have had a hard time finding a steady, everyday first baseman since Mark Teixeira. Allow me to rephrase that. The Yankees have had a hard time finding a steady, everyday first baseman since year 4 of Tex’s Yankees contract.

We’ve had some flash in the pan first basemen come and go since the 2012 season. But now we need to buckle down. First is one of those power positions where you’re meant to have an offensive force. And that’s why the Yankees front office is scrambling right now. But we also shouldn’t settle for a power-hitting first baseman who can’t field his position. It’s the third most thrown to a position in the infield behind pitcher and catcher.

Just How Bad Have the Yankees First Basemen Been?

Here’s a list of some previous Yankees we’ve depended on at first since the 2012 season:

Mark Teixeira, Chris Carter, Ji-man Choi, Larry Walker, Kelly Johnson, Chase Headly, Tyler Austin, Mark Reynolds, Neil Walker, Greg Bird, Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, and Luke Voit. That’s 13 men at one position in the span of 7 years. And at this rate, DJ, Luke Voit, and Mike Ford are going to be the only 3 on the active roster for 2020.

So How Bad Is It for 2020?

Officially, not as bad as I’m painting the picture as.

We got Voit, Ford, and DJ as our official first basemen for 2020. This is a good core of potential first basemen.

Let’s Talk About Defense

You need a rock-solid defensive first baseman. Period. That’s the busiest position in baseball short of the pitchers’ mound and catcher. The obvious nod right now, for many, is probably going to DJ LeMahieu. He was our starting first baseman for the playoffs, after all.

But did you see that error he committed in the ALDS against the Twins?

Look, he’s won a Gold Glove at 2nd. He’s won multiple Gold Gloves at 2nd. But he’s decidedly a second baseman by trade, with the next most reps he has is at third (watch out Miggy and Gio). He simply doesn’t have that impressive of a body of work at first base. The most games he played at 1st prior to last year was 4. You read that right. 4 career games at 1st base prior to the 2019 campaign.

To put it into perspective, Luke Voit has the EXACT SAME fielding percentage DJ LeMahiue has for his career at second base. There is something to be said about having someone play a position regularly. By this logic, Voit and Mike Ford are the CLEAR and present front runners for 1st base in 2020. And the edge needs to go to Voit, as Voit has better career defensive statistics than Mike Ford (at no fault to Ford. One can expect that of a career minor leaguer).

But What About Offense?

It depends entirely upon what you’re looking for at the position. DJ is a pure contact hitter. He has a career .302 batting average, averaging 150 hits per season since 2014. Last year was the best offensive statistical year he had (hitting over 20 home runs and driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career). Meanwhile, in an injury-shortened season, Luke Voit hit .263, with 21 home runs, 62 rbi’s, 21 doubles, scored 72 times on 113 hits. Not bad for someone who hasn’t played a full season in the bigs yet.

Mike Ford, in 143 at-bats, hit 12 home runs, with a .259/.350/.559 slash line. He’s in a position to be the optimum prototypical first baseman offensively for 2020, a .260-.280 batting average, with 20+ home runs, and closer to 100 RBI’s. But… the same can be said for Luke Voit.

So who should get the nod?

Luke Voit has to be our starting first baseman for the 2020 campaign. He’s got more experience at the position and is built like a brick wall. In my brief time playing first in little league baseball, that’s your job as a first baseman, keep everything in front of you. And having a brick wall/NFL linebacker at first base makes it easier for you to keep all the throws in the infield. Mike Ford needs to be the backup first baseman. By the end of 2020 or 2021, Ford will be in a better position to take over more regularly at first base should the Yankees part ways with Voit. And that’s a good thing. The DJ LeMahieu experiment at first base was worthwhile but ultimately futile. His services are better suited to other positions on the team. And it’s clear that the Yankees want to move DJ over to second on a more permanent basis. Which is a mistake?

But more on that next time.

New York Yankees: Luke Voit Living Up To Expectations A Month In

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

A lot of questions surrounded the 2019 first base battle for the New York Yankees, and when the team left spring training for New York, it looked like Luke Voit would be the starting first baseman. Greg Bird would likely still get at-bats, DHing against certain right-handers.

Voit didn’t get off to a fantastic start, but neither did Bird. About two weeks ago, Bird was placed on the IL with a plantar fascia tear, and Mike Ford was called up.

Ever since Bird was on the IL, Voit has had great success, and Ford has been playing decently as well.

Was the opportunity that Bird had before the injury his final in Pinstripes? The way Voit has been playing, I think so. I don’t just think that I believe that Voit will be the first baseman for years to come.

Voit is red hot

Ever since Bird went on the IL, Voit has been great. He has been even better since the Yankees went out west, batting well over .400 with four home runs in the last seven games (LAA and SF games).

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On the season, Voit is batting .283 with 25 RBIs, an OBP of .400 and an OPS of .935.

His offensive production has been making up for Aaron Judge’s injury disappearance, and more offense should return soon in Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton (Note: Andujar should begin rehab with A-ball Tampa Tarpons on Tuesday).

His average puts him 32nd in the AL, his OBP at 16th in the AL, his eight home runs put him sixth in the AL with teammate Gary Sanchez, and his 25 RBIs are good for second in the AL.

Voit is doing everything that the Yankees want him to do: drive in runs and get on base. He has also just been named the AL player of the week for 4/21-4/28.

Bird gets worse with time

In 35 at-bats before his injury, Bird bat a dismal .171, driving in just one run on an opening day solo-blast.

His WAR sits at -0.2, meaning that the Yankees would have more success if they didn’t use Bird at all this year.

Bird needs to be traded or sent to play AAA ball for Scranton. They could sure use players since everyone else has been called up, including Mike Ford.

Ford could keep a roster spot

In 24 at-bats, Ford has just four hits but has four RBIs. His defense is better than Voit’s and Bird’s, with better on-base, slugging, and OPS numbers than Bird.

Ford also has had more minor league success, batting over .400 before receiving the call after 10 games with Scranton.

The conclusion:

Luke Voit is here to stay for years to come. He’s sure proving that last year’s success was no fluke, and he will continue to mash. Greg Bird’s time may have come to an end as a Yankee, and Ford could stay up to play defense and potentially DH. But remember, DJ LeMahieu can play first base, too.

Still, with the injuries, I think that LeMahieu will end up staying at second and third, and Voit will be the everyday first baseman.

 

New York Yankees First Base Position Battle is Decided, Greg Bird Wins the Job

New York Yankees, Greg Bird

New York Yankees skipper Aaron Boone announced that Greg Bird will get the start at first base for the team’s opening day game against the Baltimore Orioles. Luke Voit is still expected to DH on Thursday but won’t play the field. Voit is definitely the fan favorite, and fans now have questions about the move.

Greg Bird had a slightly better spring:

Both players hit the ball well this spring, but Bird’s stats were just a bit better. Bird hit .333 compared to .289 for Voit. Voit however did have more home runs (12) and RBI’s (four) compared to Bird (10 and three respectively). While the more seasoned fielder did have a higher OBP and slugging percentage than Voit, he also showed a new ability to hit to the opposite field.

But will the spring success continue up north for Bird? He hasn’t had much success in the big leagues in his career, only one really big moment in pinstripes. That, being his ALDS game three home run off of Andrew Miller in 2017. If he doesn’t hit well, it could be his last chance with the Yankees.

Both aren’t fast or have particularly good gloves:

Both Voit and Bird aren’t known for having a good glove or necessarily being a speed demon. In my opinion, Voit is definitely a better runner and hitter, but he lacks defensive advantage. They are both good enough to get by in comparison to other players at their position.

So no matter who they pick to play defense, it honestly may not matter. It comes down to offense with those two players, and Voit will likely bat higher in the lineup, even as high as fourth or fifth. I think that Voit’s success last year wasn’t a fluke and that they have found their first baseman of the future.

New York Yankees: Was Luke Voit A One Hit Wonder Or Is He A Gem?

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

On July 28th, 2018, the New York Yankees acquired first baseman Luke Voit in a deal that sent LHP Chasen Shreve and RHP Giovanny Gallegos to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This trade made Yankees fans extremely happy, but not because of Voit. Chasen Shreve had been with the Yankees since 2015, and overall pitched poorly and Brian Cashman could not move him to the minors due to him being out of minor league options.

There was hope for fans that Shreve would be DFA’d or traded, and that finally happened. Shreve had an ERA of 4.26 in 2018, and in 2016 had an ERA of over five. He wasn’t working out and traded him just to get rid of him because he really had no spot and the same as Voit with St.Louis.

Finally getting a chance with the New York Yankees:

In 2017, Luke Voit appeared in 62 games for the Cardinals 28 hits, 18 RBI, and 4 HR. That would translate of a major league average of .246 that year.

In 2018, he started the season with the Memphis Redbirds, the AAA affiliate of Cardinals. He bounced up-and-down from the MLB to AAA a lot that season, not really able to get comfortable and batting for the Cardinals, but .299 for the Redbirds.

Once he was traded to NYY, he was assigned to the Scranton/Wikes-Barre Railriders and continued to rake, batting .310. With Greg Bird continuing to struggle and injuries still an issue, Voit was called up and made an immediate impact for the Yankees.

Once Voit was called up, he went right to work and took Greg Bird’s spot away. Bird was playing extremely poor, making errors and batting a terrible .199 over 82 games.

The more Voit played, the better he played. He hit a whopping .333, had an OBP of .405, and his slugging was through the roof at .689. In 39 games, he amassed 14 HR and 33 RBI. Also must note, the home-runs he was getting weren’t really with much help of the short porches down the lines of Yankee Stadium, he was hitting Aaron Judge like home-runs that were no-doubters.

He would only really sit when there was a match-up with an RHP that Aaron Boone didn’t like, so Bird or new Miami Marlin Neil Walker would start.

Other options still exist:

Though Voit had that instant success with the Yankees in 2018, many still wonder if he is the man in 2019 at first base. A lot of players have historically struggled in their sophomore season, and could he be the next?

Neil Walker signing with Miami obviously takes away any thought of him returning in 2019 to play first. DJ Lemahieu has signed for the next two seasons to be a utility player, and though he hasn’t played a lot of first base recently, he could still be an option.

Obviously, the Yankees still have Greg Bird, but it seems that he has played worse as more time goes on. Miguel Andujar could possibly play first, but that likely won’t happen unless the Yankees sign Machado. Entering the offseason, the Yankees were shopping a first baseman, expressing serious in then Arizona Diamondback Paul Goldschmit, now being traded to Voit’s previous home, St. Louis.

Several men have the opportunity to win the first base job in Spring, but will it be Voit? If it is Voit, will he have the same success? Only time can find out.