It’s been a heated spring training so far for the Yankees as Luke Voit and Greg Bird battle for the starting first base spot. While both Bird and Voit have been impressive in the Grapefruit League so far, what’s the deciding factor on who gets the job Opening Day?
Currently, Bird is hitting .400 in 15 at-bats with 6 hits, 3 RBIs and 1 home run. He came into spring training with a stronger presence and the mentality that he has to prove himself in order to win the job from Voit. Bird has suffered from multiple injuries the last couple of years which has been a major factor in his play. Last year, Bird finished the season with a low .199 average and 54 hits in 272 at-bats along with 11 home runs. He claims he is healthier than ever, and I’m sure the Yankees as well as their fans are curious on what a completely healthy Bird can contribute to the team. While the Yankees love hot bats and scoring runs, defense shouldn’t be overlooked. Aaron Boone said himself that even though Luke Voit is continuing to make strides at first base, Bird has the defensive edge. Bird’s injuries can’t be forgotten in this decision especially when he had to play through them last year. He struggled both on the field and in the box because of his recovering ankle and couldn’t do much practice with his footwork because of the discomfort. As a result, Voit became the primary starter and made a true impact, shining offensively.
The other half of this battle, Luke Voit, is currently hitting .308 in 13 at-bats with 4 hits, 5 RBIs and 2 home runs. Voit was a key member of the Yankees in the 2018 season when Bird was struggling, and the way he was there to pick the Yankees up when they were down can’t be overlooked. Last year for the Yankees, he hit .333 in 132 at-bats with 44 hits, 33 RBIs and 14 home runs. His memorable performance is the prime reason Yankees fans prefer Voit over Bird for the 2019 season. Voit has always been more focused on offense which is why Bird is favored for defense, but during the offseason he worked on trying to turn his biggest weakness into a strength. He realized that the game wasn’t all about hitting and worked on his defense just as much as offense. With Voit’s incredible end to last season and the way he is determined to improve his fielding, it would be surprising if the Yankees didn’t give him an opportunity in the 2019 season.
Scattered comments from Yankees manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman have left fans stuck wondering who will get the first base job, or if they will consider adding both Voit and Bird to the roster. Aaron Boone at one point stated that Voit was a leg up in the competition, but then said that Bird had the defensive edge. Brian Cashman has also told ESPN how, “We still have a bet that Greg Bird is going to eventually become the Greg Bird we think he’ll become.” So obviously the Yankees still have a lot of faith in Bird and his capabilities, but also want to see what Luke Voit could do for the 2019 Yankees team. Aaron Boone told the NY Post that there was still a lot of spring training left to play and time to make decisions, so a lot can happen between now and Opening Day. Both Voit and Bird have their pros and cons, so the decision isn’t exactly an easy one.