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The Yankees may have the best first baseman in New York

While his cross town rival will get all the attention, Luke Voit’s pre-injury numbers give him a claim as the best first baseman in New York.

New York Mets v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The conversation started last summer as Pete Alonso clubbed home runs in what became a record setting performance for major league rookies. The 25-year-old first baseman was drawing praise as one of the best bats at his position, but there’s some competition to be had just a zip code over. A healthy Luke Voit is every bit his rival, and will have something to say in the matter.

Mets fans were excited to crown their new star the face of New York baseball (at least in the non-pitching category). The cross-town rivalry between the Mets and Yankees is interesting in that it plays out mostly on social media, talk-radio, and the newspapers as the teams only face off a handful of times each season. In decades prior each fan base touted their stars, with one New York centric debate famously centered around Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider.

Luke Voit’s path to New York City looked very different than his counterpart across town. Alonso’s amateur performances and potential made him a first round draft pick and frequent member of the various top-100 prospects list. Voit on the other hand was a 22nd round pick, and never considered an elite prospect as he came through the Cardinals’ system.

The lack of pedigree allowed Voit to arrive to the Yankees organization with very little fanfare or hype in what was viewed as a minor trade at the time. Voit quickly made the Yankees front office look very smart, starting the first 117 games of his Yankees career hitting .296/.396/.565 — good for a 156 wRC+.

The last game of that stretch was during the Yankees series in London last year. After hitting his third double of the game, he displayed significant discomfort upon reaching second base. The result was a serious abdominal injury that was not fully diagnosed until after the 2019 season was over.

While Voit was falling off due to injury, Pete Alonso continued to hit dingers, eventually setting a new rookie record of 53. Overall he hit .260/.358/.583, good for a 143 wRC+ on the season. That production earned him the National League Rookie of the Year award.

The home run chase for Aaron Judge’s rookie record is what captured the imagination of Mets fans the most. Alonso has a prominent role in most of Major League Baseball’s promotion videos early this year, and as one of the biggest power threats in the game he has earned that.

But the fact remains that when healthy, Luke Voit has out performed Pete Alonso at the plate since arriving in New York. Voit’s first two months with the Yankees were out of this world and a big part of the reason that his pre-injury production looks so elite. It is worth noting that he backed up his 2018 with a strong 140 wRC+ in 2019 before his injury.

Neither man will remind their fans of the elite defense displayed by the likes of Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez in years past. Alonso has made a ton of progress from his minor league days when a 2018 Baseball America scouting report described him as an “... uncoordinated, slow-bodied defender.” He is still slightly below average in terms of most categories but has made significant progress in that area, and holds an edge over Voit.

Pete Alonso will be pushed by Mets fans this year as the face of New York baseball in 2020. While Alonso has earned much of his praise that title still belongs to Aaron Judge. A healthy season by Luke Voit should trigger a rivalry and legitimate debate over who is the best first baseman in New York.