The New York Yankees are trying to figure out who their first baseman will be this season. It should be Luke Voit’s job to lose.
With Miguel Andujar set to return this spring, the New York Yankees are planning to make use of his versatility. According to manager Aaron Boone, Andujar is expected to play both first base and left field this spring.
Andujar has already lost his job at third base. Gio Urshela stole the job out from under him after a monster 2019 season.
If Andujar wants to play this season he’ll need to become more versatile. For him, that means learning first base and left field.
Since the 24-year-old is more familiar with playing in the infield, he’ll likely be better served at first base. That means Andujar will be competing against Luke Voit for the playing time at first base this spring.
With first base being Voit’s primary position, he’s likely to have a slight edge over Andujar defensively heading into spring training. However, the battle for the everyday first baseman spot is likely to be a close race throughout this spring.
Voit was one of the worst defensive first basemen throughout the entire league in 2019.
Over his 706.1 innings, the 28-year-old committed seven errors (tied for eleventh-most), -6 DRS (tied for league-worst), -6 OAA (tied for second-worst), -3.9 UZR (third-worst) along with a -11.9 UZR/150 (second-worst) among first basemen with at least 700 innings played.
Voit was certainly a liability at first base in 2019. That said, there’s no guarantee of Andujar being able to produce improved defensive results this spring.
During the 2018 season, Andujar recorded 15 errors (tied for fourth-most), along with a league-worst -25 DRS, -11 OAA -16.0 UZR and a -24.5 UZR/150 among all qualified third basemen. He was historically awful defensively in 2018, it cost him a Rookie of the Year award. Those awful results display why Andujar can no longer be trusted at third base.
Based on these defensive results from both Voit and Andujar, each player will need to dramatically improve their defense this spring in order for them to remain in the competition for the starting role.
Since the New York Yankees are attempting to improve their overall defense in 2020, they’re unlikely to settle for two players who are awful defenders. Unless Voit and Andujar can improve their defense this spring they could both be out of a job.
Andujar clearly has the edge over Voit in most offensive categories.
Over his 606 plate appearances in 2018, the right-handed batter hit 47 doubles, 27 home runs, 92 RBI’s, .230 ISO, .316 BABIP, 130 wRC+, 2.8 fWAR, and slashed .297/.328/.527/.855. In addition, Andujar only struck out 16% of the time.
In 2019 Voit posted 21 doubles, 21 home runs, 62 RBI’s, .200 ISO, .345 BABIP, 126 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR, and slashed .263/.378/.464/.842 over 510 plate appearances.
Unlike Andujar, Voit had an issue with strikeouts as he produced a 27.8% strikeout rate. That said his patience at the plate is impressive and led to a 13.9% walk rate, nearly 10% higher than Andujar posted in 2018.
Even though Andujar has proven to hit for more power, Voit has been more consistent. It helps that Voit has is much better at getting on base. Voit should be the better all-around hitter if he can just cut down on the strikeouts.
These metrics may be useless at the end of the day. Each player had a lengthy stint on the injured list last season, and both players will enter this spring as a high injury risk.
With Andujar needing surgery on his right shoulder last season, a move to first base would limit the amount of stress on his throwing arm. Keeping Andujar on the infield in 2020 could keep him healthier. It would also allow Mike Tauchman to become the everyday left fielder.
After having core surgery earlier this offseason, the New York Yankees expect Voit to make a full recovery in time for the start of spring training. As Pete Caldera of USA Today noted back in December, Boone expects Voit to be an “impact player” this season.
More fun with numbers: Guessing Luke Voit would grant his No. 45 to Gerrit Cole upon request.
And earlier today, Aaron Boone said he anticipated Voit as his 2020 first baseman following offseason core surgery: "I'm confident that Luke Voit is an impact player for us.''
— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) December 11, 2019
The Yankees’ coaching staff would be saved from a difficult decision if either Voit or Andujar sustained a lengthy injury this spring. However, they would still need to eventually choose between these two.
As of right now, Voit appears to be leading the race. That said, Andujar isn’t trailing far behind. With a strong spring, the New York Yankees could have two players who are capable of earning regular playing time at first base.
Unless Boone and his staff are planning to use a platoon at first base, they’ll need to choose a starter this spring. Based on Boone’s comments from last month, it appears that it’s Voit’s job to lose.