Yankees: The five biggest surprises during the 2018 season
The Yankees had high expectations for Greg Bird this season just as they did in 2017. Unfortunately, 2018 was more of the same for Bird as he once again struggled to stay healthy or find any consistency at the plate. For the second straight season, he hit under .200 and didn’t hit for much power either with just 11 HR in 272 at-bats.
Bird couldn’t catch up to fastballs up in the zone all season long, particularly on anything 95 mph or above. His plate discipline also disappeared somewhat and his all-around struggles eventually led to his benching in late August.
The man who replaced him was none other than Luke Voit, the biggest surprise of the 2018 season. Voit entered his age 27 season stuck in the minors in the Cardinals organization just waiting for an opportunity to play every day at the big league level.
When Voit came over to the Yankees at the end of July in the trade for Chasen Shreve the expectation was that he’d go to Triple-A Scranton to give the Yanks more first base depth after the departure of Tyler Austin. Nobody could’ve ever imagined he’d be the Yankees best hitter down the stretch and would start at first base during the postseason, but that’s exactly what happened.
Voit burst onto the scene and had one of the most memorable September’s in recent franchise history. In 39 games with the Yanks Voit hit .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI in just 148 PA. He turned out to be the top offensive acquisition of the trade deadline and rightfully took over for the struggling Bird as the everyday first basemen.
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Voit quickly became a fan favorite and provided some huge hits down the stretch for this Yankee team. None bigger than in the AL Wild Card game when Voit had the stadium crowd going crazy with a two-run triple to blow the game open in the Yankees 7-2 win over the A’s.
The season didn’t end the way the Yankees had hoped but that certainly wasn’t because of Voit. Without him who knows if they would’ve even hosted that Wild Card game or advanced to play Boston in the ALDS.
Next season Voit should have a leg up on the competition to win the starting job at first but Bird will get a fair shot. Whether it will be his last chance remains to be seen but should he struggle again it’s safe to say Voit will be the Yankees starting first basemen in 2019. Unless a move is made for someone else.
I don’t think there will be and part of me hopes there isn’t because I’d love to see what Voit can accomplish over the course of a full season. He might not be able to produce at the same level he did this season, but he’s certainly no fluke and I expect him to be a big part of next year’s lineup and the Yankees chase for 28.