Heading into next season Luke Voit is the favorite to be the Yankees starting first basemen and deservedly so. However, don’t sleep on second-year slugger Mike Ford who really impressed down the stretch during his rookie campaign and is one of only a few left-handed hitters on the 40-man roster.
At this year’s Spring Training in Tampa, there’s going to be a couple of position battles taking place throughout camp to decide who will be in the Yankees starting lineup on Opening Day.
At third base, Gio Urshela will enter as the favorite to win the starting job and will try to separate himself from the returning Miguel Andujar who missed the majority of last season due to injury. In left field, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier will not only compete to split some of the starting reps with Giancarlo Stanton but also for a spot on the 26-man roster.
Both battles are sure to be fun to watch but I think the most competitive could end being the one between the aforementioned Voit and Ford at first base. Each player is coming off of solid seasons in 2019 even though Voit was injured for a large chunk of the second half and Ford only played in 50 games.
Voit finished the year hitting .263 in 118 games with 21 HR, 63 RBI, and an impressive .378 OBP. In 68 fewer games, Ford was extremely productive hitting .259 in 143 at-bats with 12 HR, 25 RBI, and a .909 OPS. Despite their success, neither one of them ended up being a part of the Yankees postseason roster in either round because DJ LeMahieu was the starter. However, now that Didi Gregorius is gone LeMahieu will shift back to his customary position at second which leaves Voit and Ford to fight for the starting job at first.
Based on his production since joining the Yanks back in August of 2018 Voit is likely to win the job if he can put together a decent spring but Ford can not be counted out for a couple of reasons. The first is he’s a left-handed hitter which is something the Yankees are seriously lacking heading into 2020.
Right now Brett Gardner is the only left-handed hitter projected to start next season while Ford, Tauchman and Tyler Wade will all be fighting for spots on the 26-man roster. Ford is the best power hitter amongst the three and could prove to be the best power-hitting lefty on the roster if given consistent at-bats.
Another reason why Ford could overtake Voit is his ability to put the ball in play at a much higher rate. His sample size of big-league at-bats last season was much smaller but he only struck out 19.5% of the time compared to Voit who struck out 142 times and in 33% of his at-bats. Ford also only struck out 18.7% of the time in 294 at-bats for Scranton Wilkes-Barre so he’s never really been a high strikeout guy.
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Ford will obviously have to prove next season that his performance in 2019 was no fluke, but I like his chances because he always seems to have quality at-bats and puts the barrel on the ball at a high rate. That’s not to say he’ll beat out Voit because as long as he can stay healthy I’d expect big things from him as well in 2020.
Prior to suffering a core injury before the All-Star break last season Voit was one of the Yankees most consistent hitters. He provided a huge boost while many of their top sluggers were sidelined on the IL, but the core injury plagued him throughout the second half and he hit only .228 with 4 HR.
After undergoing surgery in late October Voit will enter spring training fully healthy and if he can avoid the IL over the course of the 162 game schedule he should be able to put up big numbers. He needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts but he figures to be a mainstay in the Yankee lineup because of his ability to work a lot of walks and hit for power to all fields.
Although I’d give Voit the edge to win the starting job I wouldnt be surprised if Ford makes the roster to give the Yanks another left-handed bat off the bench. Having both Voit and Ford on the team is a good thing for the Yankees because as we saw last season you can never have too much depth.