If Aaron Boone’s choice of attire is any indication of who will win the first base job for the Yankees, go ahead and pencil in Luke Voit for Opening Day.
The battle between Luke Voit and Greg Bird over who will start at first base is the highest profile story line in Yankees Spring Training. It’s possible the race between the two isn’t quite as close as most Yankees fans seem to think.
If manager Aaron Boone is still conflicted between the two players he sure picked an odd way to show it on Wednesday. The Yankees manager sported a Luke Voit T-shirt in the clubhouse before New York’s game against Philadelphia.
That hardly seems like the sort of thing you do for a player who will be sent down to the minors in a few weeks.
Of course, the decision between Voit and Bird isn’t entirely in Boone’s hands. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and his front office team will have a lot of input as well.
It’s possible that Boone’s fashion choice was designed to send a clear message to the higher-ups in the organization about which guy he wants to go to battle with when the regular season begins.
Voit was absolutely the better player down the stretch last season. Aaron Judge even went so far as to tell him that the team wouldn’t have qualified for the postseason without his efforts last year.
In sharp contrast, Bird was mired in a slump all season long that caused him to finish the year with a batting average below .200.
In fairness to Bird, he’s been the better player during Spring Training. He arrived in camp in better shape both mentally and physically. That’s powered him to a 9-for-26 start at the plate. That batting average of .346 has definitely caught the eye of Yankees officials.
However, Bird has enjoyed productive spring trainings in the past. He’ll need to significantly outperform Voit if he wants to win the job this year.
Voit hasn’t been great in his nine appearances, but he hasn’t been bad either. Going 6-for-22 with two home runs isn’t going to cause anyone to project him as an All-Star, but coupled wit his success last season he looks to be the more reliable player at the plate.
Defensively, the edge has to go with Bird. Cashman has admitted that openly this spring. Voit’s muscular frame really limits his mobility in the field. He isn’t an atrocious defender, but most metrics show him to be below-average with the glove.
The fact that Bird is a left-handed batter might also play into the decision. At the moment, the Yankees have a real dearth of southpaw hitters at their disposal.
All things being equal, the organization would like to have a quality lefty in the every day lineup to break up their right-handed sluggers.
In the end, Yankees fans shouldn’t look for a decision about the battle at first base until the last possible moment. Cashman, Boone and the rest of the organization’s decision makers are going to want to see as much data as possible before declaring a winner.