No Platoon in the Bronx
The Yankees have a lot of strengths -- and a lot of strength -- in their lineup, and should be among the best offenses in baseball again in 2019.
Versatility is not one of those strengths, however, and it is going to cost them a quality bat this summer.
Aaron Boone told reporters on Thursday that there will not be a platoon at first base this season. That means that one of Luke Voit or Greg Bird is going to be the starting first baseman for New York, and strongly implies that one of the two will not be on the roster to begin the season.
There are obviously big fantasy implications here, and both players have their strengths that suggest they deserve the job to begin the year. Let's start with Bird, a player that has been a sleeper for so long that you've likely bought a new mattress by now. He's 26-years-old, and he's shown tremendous power potential and the willingness to draw walks that suggest he can help you in on-base percentage and homers. He's also struggled to stay healthy, and when he was healthy in 2018, he wasn't very good with a .199 average and 78 strikeouts in 82 games. He's the more volatile of the two first baseman, but he's also the one who offers the most upside.
Voit, on the other hand, is a player who was never a top prospect, but saying he was a more successful hitter than Bird in 2018 is an understatement. It was a small sample size, but after coming over from the Cardinals, the 28-year-old hit .333 with 14 homers in just 39 games. Again, though, the sample size is microscopic, and while he has performed in the minors, it's certainly reasonable to question just how real that final quarter of a season was.
As for which one you should be hoping wins the job out of the Grapefruit League, it's a tough call. Bird offers the higher ceiling, and as a left-handed hitter playing in that stadium, you can't help but wonder what he's capable of doing this season. At the same time, Voit offers plus-plus power himself, and you would have to say he offers the higher floor between the two. It's important to keep in mind that both players have an option left, so while one is likely headed to Triple-A, the one who doesn't will have the other waiting in the wings.
Whether it's Bird or Voit that's playing first, this is a situation that you have to monitor. One of them has a chance to provide value in 2019.
Senzel Returns After Hamstring Injury
After missing a week of games due to tightness in his hamstring, Nick Senzel was able to return to the lineup against the Mariners on Sunday; starting in center field and hitting sixth in a loss to the Mariners in the Cactus League. The outfielder went 1-for-3 with a strikeout before exiting -- for regular spring training reasons, not because of anything involving the injury.
The fantasy case for Senzel this year is an interesting -- and complicated one -- mostly due to things that the 2015 second-overall pick can't control. By leaving the 23-year-old in Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the 2019 season, they will gain an extra year of control, meaning that he wouldn't become a free agent until the 2026 season at the earliest. It's also worth pointing out that the Reds have a better case of keeping Senzel down than players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., because he not only has dealt with injuries -- his season was cut short in the summer last year with a fractured right index finger -- he's also learning a new position, playing center field.
That being said, even if he is down on the farm to start the season, there's a strong chance that Senzel is going to help fantasy rosters in 2019. He has a smooth, line-drive stroke that's capable of making hard contact to all parts of the field, and it shouldn't shock anyone if he flirted with a .300 average -- or slightly better -- even as a rookie because of that and his ability to recognize pitches. He also has developing power, and the fact he'll play his home games in the friendly confines of Cincinnati helps that figure. Add in the speed to steal 20-plus bases, and you have a ready-to-go player that can help in several categories.
It's understandable to take a wait-and-see approach with any prospect -- especially one who is very unlikely to make the MLB roster -- but you risk missing out on Senzel and his impressive upside. Do so at your own risk.
Quick Hits: Brandon Maurer is dealing with a right knee issue … Tigers pitching prospect Franklin Perez is now sidelined in Tigers camp with a trapezius issue … Richard Bleier (lat) is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Saturday … An MRI on Austin Wynns' oblique came back clean … Chris Herrmann will undergo surgery on his right knee after receiving a second opinion … Josh James (quad) threw a bullpen session Thursday morning in Astros camp … Ryan Yarbrough (groin) threw a successful bullpen session Thursday in Rays camp … Luke Farrell underwent surgery Wednesday for a non-displaced fracture in his jaw … Jose Altuve was scratched from the Astros' Grapefruit League lineup on Thursday due to "general left side soreness” … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that Ross Stripling is the next-man-up for the starting rotation … Gabriel Moya is currently sidelined in Twins camp with tightness around the back of his shoulder … Bradley Zimmer (shoulder) is scheduled to throw to bases this weekend.
Danny Salazar (shoulder) has begun playing long toss from a distance of 120 feet … Dodgers claimed LHP Donnie Hart off waivers from the Orioles and designated RHP Josh Fields for assignment … Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters on Thursday that Drew VerHagen is being checked out by the medical staff after experiencing dead arm … Alex Wood (back) could return to the mound on Saturday against the Padres … Nicky Delmonico left Thursday's Cactus League game against the Brewers after crashing into the left-field wall and has entered the concussion protocol … Clayton Kershaw (shoulder) was able to throw to a crouching catcher on Thursday … Joe Kelly was scratched from his Wednesday Cactus League appearance due to tightness in his back ... Carlos Carrasco could make his first Cactus League start of 2019 on Sunday against the Mariners … Cesar Hernandez (hip) took batting practice on Thursday … Mitch Haniger (back) was able to play in an intersquad game on Thursday … Jimmy Nelson (shoulder) pitched two innings in a simulated game on Thursday.