The Luke Voit vs. Greg Bird Debate
Despite coming up short in the postseason, the 2018 Yankees were full of exciting surprises. From up and down their major league roster, the likes of Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andùjar, and Luke Voit all burst onto the scene and really made a name for themselves at the big league level.
With that in mind, there still were struggles in regards to some players who were expected to be key contributors, who didn’t perform up to the hype. That happens in every season, however, and usually if the team is full of talent at other positions, it can overshadow some of the holes created.
Exhibit A: First base.
Luke Voit was acquired in prior to the July 31 deadline in exchange for teetering relief pitchers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. When he got to the Bronx, he basically turned into the second-coming of Albert Pujols. But Brian Cashman may not have pulled the trigger on that deal had he gotten even close to the level of production that he feels Greg Bird is capable of.
Bird entered his age-25 season following an injury-plagued 2017 that limited him to just 48 games — and a 2016 that saw none of the Memphis-native due to injury. The Yankees were hoping that he could channel some of the successes of his mini-showcase in 2015, when he hit .261 with an .871 OPS, adding eleven home runs in just 46 games, as well as his solid 2017 playoff, where he showed some ability to drive the ball against left-handed arms.
But none of that translated into the 2018 season. A mix of injuries and bad performance yielded Bird to the sidelines while Luke Voit took his job.
However, to think that Voit can sustain the level of success he had last season is just unreasonable. Naturally as teams gain more film and data on you, they’ll learn how to pitch to you better, and expose a lot of your weaknesses.
Brian Cashman has said that Voit holds the edge to reclaim first base in 2019, and rightfully so. The 27-year-old phenom came over and hit .333 with an OPS over 1.000 in his 39 games in Pinstripes last year. What’s really baffling is his numbers vs. power pitchers — anyone who throws a fastball 95+ MPH. Voit hit a whopping .444 against fastballs 95+ in 2018, compared to Bird’s .140 average.
GM Brian Cashman did say, however, that the Bronx Bombers are going to be giving Greg Bird every opportunity to earn his spot back next spring — as they still view him to be a very good big league bat. He has the raw talent and the tools to be a fierce hitter in a potent Yankee offense. It’s just been a matter of him being able to keep that talent on the field long enough so he can sustain any sort of game-shape.
A healthy Greg Bird come mid-February is one of the biggest keys to the Yankees off-season. If they can get him right, on top of what Voit has shown he can provide, you’ve got yourselves one of the best platooning tandems in baseball.