Yankees’ First Base Solutions
Except for presumably Tropical Storm Henri, nothing, of late, has stopped the "New" New York Yankees from pursuing their path to a postseason spot.
|Photo credit: New York Post|
However, on the individual player side, the big story lies at first base. This year, 2021, was slated to be the Year of Luke Voit, especially following his 22-home run season in 2020 (over 60 games nonetheless) and his placement in the running for A.L. MVP. But that all changed, firstly due to Voit’s third trip to the I.L. in 2021 with left knee inflammation. Secondly, due to the arrival of Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline (when Voit was still injured). It’s been the discussion across sports talk radio, from the entire YES Network team and all over Yankees Twitter.
However, with Rizzo finding himself on the Covid-IL for over a week, Luke Voit found himself a golden opportunity that eluded him earlier in the season due to a series of injuries. And he’s made the most of it, with a .320 batting average, going 16-for-50 with four home runs, 17 RBIs and a .990 OPS in the month of August so far. The theory that competition improves other players could prove true here, especially in light of Voit’s recent comments to the press regarding his playing time.
"I want to play. Obviously, I know it's gonna be tougher with (Anthony) Rizzo, but I deserve to play just as much as he does. I led the league in home runs last year and I feel really good again."— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 18, 2021
Luke Voit speaks on his role moving forward with Rizzo's return approaching. pic.twitter.com/9oHsKjp2UV
Of course, on the defensive side, Rizzo is a four-time Gold Glove Winner. Even with his time away, he has significantly proved himself to the Yankees both defensively (he flat-out told Rougned Odor to “throw the ball and [he’ll] catch it, a system that has served both players well) as well as offensively. He’s recorded three home runs since coming to the Bronx, as well as nine RBIs and has a current OPS of .796, even with missing ten days worth of playing time.
So, what to do? As Voit himself told us all, he does not deserve to play in place of Rizzo, he deserves to play as much as Rizzo. Which leaves two solutions:
The Yankees have dealt with the possibility of a 1B platoon before, back when Greg Bird was part of the equation alongside Voit. But, with just a week left of August, the Yankees cannot afford to be without Rizzo’s or Voit’s bats… and they certainly cannot afford to be without Rizzo’s defensive prowess. Of course, with the memories of how the Yankees have been plagued with both injuries and COVID-19 this season, there’s no guarantee that everyone will stay healthy. Having two people who can play first base (three if you include DJ LeMahieu) won’t sound like a bad idea after all. Obviously, let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
This solution is far more practical than the platoon: have Voit in the DH spot, play Rizzo at 1B and… wait for it… make Giancarlo Stanton play the field. Every day. I understand the urgency with regard to keeping Stanton healthy with his track record of injuries; however, he has largely stayed healthy in 2021. COVID-19 has eluded him, and he found himself injured just one time this season, back in May. Stanton has already proven himself to be productive in the outfield in 2021 after not playing any field position for two years. Additionally, a theory can be floated that Stanton’s recent improvement at the plate directly correlates to his playing the outfield. In the month of August (the month during which he has returned to an outfield position), Stanton is hitting .309, is 21-for-68 with four home runs, 15 RBIs and a .949 OPS. Additionally, Stanton struck out a whopping 31 times in July, and with a week left in August, he’s struck out 16 times this month. While this solution might not be a viable solution every single day, it’s a workable one.
There’s one thing that I know for sure in this situation, and it’s that the Yankees are playing the best they’ve played all season long. And they’re playing at this caliber with Rizzo, Stanton and Voit all in their lineup.
Article by: Mary Grace Donaldson