With Mark Teixeira out 8-10 weeks with a strained forearm, the New York Yankees will need someone big to step in at first base. Who has emerged as the front-runner for the job?
Kevin Youkilis, New York’s big offseason acquisition, is a prime candidate to line up at first, but the team might be going for a more consistent approach. I believe Juan Rivera is the ideal player to take over for the first two months of the regular season. Not only is he a veteran player that has put up decent numbers over the years, but he is performing at a high-level in Spring Training.
The 34-year-old is batting .375 this spring with four RBI, four doubles, one walk and two runs. No other candidate for first base is close to these numbers. Youkilis is hitting .263 with two homers and three RBI, while dark-horse candidate Dan Johnson has only recorded one hit in 21 at-bats with seven strikeouts.
General manager Brain Cashman reportedly signed Rivera to be an outfielder opposed to a first baseman, but now he has no choice. The 12-year veteran lined up at first base 54 times last season (39 starts) in which he had a .985 fielding percentage and only five errors in 325 total chances. To look at the bigger picture, Rivera has a .988 fielding percentage at first base in 106 career games (83 starts).
The Venezuela native posted a dismal .244/.286/.375 line in 2012 with only nine home runs, 47 RBI and 14 doubles. However, the fact that he is a solid defensive first baseman is everything the Yankees need to know.
Youkilis has actually spent more time at first base in his career (607 games) than any other position. He is also the better defensive player then Rivera, but with Alex Rodriguez out with a hip injury, New York will need Youkilis to spend time at third base. Not to mention, Rivera hits for a higher batting average than Youkilis, even if he does not have the same power.