First Base: Greg Bird vs. Tyler Austin
Bird crushed 11 home runs in 46 games and slashed .261/.343/.529 with an OPS of .871 but we never got to see him in action due to a torn right labrum sustained in the offseason.
What we did get to see, however, was Tyler Austin.
The 25-year old smacked five home runs in 31 games following a promotion on August 13, 2016, but demonstrated superb opposite-field power, a clutch gene and went 6-for-12 (.500) with two home runs over his last five games.
Prediction: Greg Bird
While Austin certainly makes a case to win it, I find his flexibility around the diamond too valuable to lock into one position.
The ability to DH, play first, right field, left field and even some third base will prove to be beneficial for Bird (who’s recovering from shoulder surgery) Judge, Sanchez and more.
Not to mention having his bat handy on the bench for a late-game situation, but the determination to go with Bird just makes sense.
He’s a guy who made a smooth transition from the minors to the big leagues in ’15 and despite the evident rust he demonstrated in the Arizona Fall League (.215/.346/.364, 1 HR), his on-base percentage (.346) and walks (12) reassured his organization that his plate discipline had not disappeared.