Former Yankee first baseman Greg Bird and current first baseman Luke Voit caused a huge rift among Yankee fans last season as the two battled it out for the starting 1B spot.
Bird’s assumed potential, sweet swing, and ALDS heroics were the arguments for Bird fans. Voit’s power, swagger, and performance in his first season supported the Voit-stans.
Voit ended up winning the job as Bird was unable to get healthy, but that was only after both of them broke camp on the Opening Day roster. That Bird-Voit saga may be ramping up for a sequel featuring Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela. The similarities are beginning to mount and Yankee fans may be preparing to go to war over one-third baseman or the other.
Let’s run through the similarities between the Bird-Voit saga and the Andujar-Urshela saga.
One superficial similarity is the last names. Bird and Voit both had four letters. Andujar and Urshela both have seven. While this does not mean anything to predict a positional battle, it is fun and kind of eerie.
Now to the real similarities begin with the injury. Bird came onto the scene as a prospect, played well, and got hurt. Andujar burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year finalist and then also got hurt. Their replacements were two players that had yet to establish themselves in the league from teams with bird mascots. Voit came from the Cardinals Urshela came from the Blue Jays.
The replacements became fan favorites as the two injured younglings were almost forgotten on the injured list and toiled to return from injury only to struggle.
Now, let’s look at performance.
Bird and Andujar had great rookie campaigns their first year. Bird had a wRC+ of 137 and Andujar had a wRC+ of 130. Their replacements then proceeded to come in and over-perform thanks to high BABIPs. Voit had an astronomical .365 BABIP and Urshela had a .349 BABIP.
When Bird returned, he had a short leash because of how good Voit had been. Injury did not help, but with Voit on a rookie contract and with DJ LeMahieu’s versatility, it was not hard for the Yankees to DFA him.
It is worrisome that a similar fate may await Andujar because of how well Urshela performed last year. The issue is, Urshela is not as talented as Andujar. Miggy has more power. Urshela is a guy who hits for average which just does not have the same value as it used to.
Andujar’s .316 BABIP seems much more realistic as he performed to a .297 batting average with that BABIP which indicates a more realistic performance. He also performed immediately upon entering the league as a full-time player unlike the years it took Urshela to get a chance.
Urshela can flaunt a higher batting average last season than Andujar, but that is really it. His defense is also superior, but Urshela was still a below-average defender.
Another benefit of Urshela is his health. He was one of the only Yankees to stay fairly healthy in 2019 while Andujar missed almost all of 2019 with shoulder issues.
What to Expect
The major difference between Bird-Voit and Andujar-Urshela is that Voit was better than Bird, but Andujar is better than Urshela. Another difference is Bird had more experience than Voit, but Urshela has more experience than Andujar.
This means Andujar will need a longer leash to “re-prove” himself as the Yankees starting third baseman even though he should have already cemented that honor in 2018 when he hit 27 homers and 47 doubles.
In Spring Training, those two will have to battle it out. Come late March, do not be surprised to have Urshela on the outside looking in.
We can revisit this saga throughout camp, but hopefully, it does not turn into the tumultuous battle and bickering that Bird-Voit became.
Featured Image: New York Post