Ever since Mark Texiera retired, the Yankees have been on the hunt for a first baseman. Over the last three years, the team has done a great job in their search. The problem is, there is still no certainty as to who will be the starting first baseman for the Yankees in 2020.
Having said that, let me circle back to the fact that Brian Cashman has done a great job so far. The process began with a young prospect named Greg Bird, a left-handed power hitter with a beautiful swing and a gleaming personality. Unfortunately this first attempt to replace Texiera never reached its full potential. Bird has been riddled with injuries during his time with the Yankees, and even when he gets his chance, he can’t seem to prove his worth.
The next step involved a minor leaguer from the Cardinals. Cashman swung a deal with St. Louis to get Luke Voit, a talent who was hidden behind Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter. Once Voit came to the Yankees, he basically took over the big leagues for a month. He hit .333/.405/.689 while smacking 14 home runs and driving in 33 RBI in only 39 games played. His bat skills, coupled with his youth and energetic personality, made New York think that maybe they had found their next first baseman.
It was a small sample size for Voit in 2018, so nothing was set in stone. A healthy Bird and Voit came into spring training ready to battle it out for the first base job. Cashman was public about the fact that Voit had a small leg up in the race due to his tremendous performance in 2018, and that leg up is what most likely won him the job. Now that Voit was the Yankees’ starting first baseman he had to prove he could stay up in the big leagues and that his 2018 stats weren’t just a fluke.
Fast forward to the end of the summer in 2019 and Voit had done just that. All year he was the Yankees’ first baseman; in 118 games he hit 21 home runs and batted .263 while driving in 62 runs. Yet, he only played 118 games. Those other games were filled in by various players, one of them being Mike Ford, who decided to stir the Yankees first base pot a little more.
Ford replaced Voit in August while Voit was healing from a sports hernia. In the month of September, Ford took his turn going off with the bat. Over that span he slashed .353/.436/706 with home runs, good for a 197 wRC+. Voit was able to play in the last two month, but he played poorly post-injury, beginning the discussion as to whether he or Ford should make the postseason roster.
So where are we now? Voit finished the season cold and healing from injury, while Ford made a name for himself. Most fans and experts at this point would probably tell you, in the end, the odds are still in Voit’s favor like the 2018 battle. He played great during a good portion of 2019, and he did end up making the postseason roster.
Regardless, Ford will surely be in spring training ready to battle for that position. This is by no means is a problem because both players proved they can play at a high level. Yet, this is another season in which the Yankees will be uncertain as to who will be starting for them at first base on Opening Day. Ford can hit, but can he outhit Voit who is looking to claim his spot for good? We’ll find out come spring training in 2020.