Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who's On First?

It's hard to believe that March starts the day after day after tomorrow...heck, it'd be the day after tomorrow three years out of four!

Anyway, today's question:

Who’s at first base?

Now, of all the questions that might be asked of the Yankees this spring training, this seems like the one that would be hardest to answer, but let's not ignore that the Yankees have a few options. Tino Martinez is not one of them, I'm sorry.

Shelley Duncan: Easily a fan favorite. It happens when you knock two home runs in your third career big league game, and have a personality that makes Chuck Norris look like a...well, not Chuck Norris. Anyway, Shelley's got the bat, though he does strike out quite a bit. His defensive abilities, however, are perhaps more suited for the outfield (think Shane Spencer circa September 1998) than first base. From what we've been hearing, Duncan's getting some practice at it, but I'm not sure you see him at first on Opening Day.

Jason Giambi: Let's face it, there are only two options for him--first base or DH, and if we've got Johnny Damon as our every day left-fielder, Matsui will end up doing most of the DHing as the Yankees can't afford to sit him, while, as they did show last year, they can go most of a season without Giambi and still find a way to win. The problem with Giambi right now is that a)he's not what you'd consider good at defense, and b) if he doesn't get regular ABs, he doesn't hit very well. It's an odd situation when you have Jason Giambi on the bench, but then again, better too much talent than too little.

Morgan Ensberg: Got him from Houston, I think. Dark horse to start at first, but solid coming off of the bench. Other than that, I don't know enough about Ensberg to offer much insight...

Wilson Betemit: He's more suited for third or short, to give Alex or Derek a night off, than he is for first, and he still has to learn to hit from the right side. That doesn't mean he won't be useful throughout the course of a season; just that he's unlikely to start at first.

Between Shelley and Giambi, I wouldn't be surprised to see Shelley get the Opening Day start, but then Giambi see more overall playing time.

Or I could be completely wrong.


  1. I am not sure that Duncan will even make the roster. It is possible that because he has options left, the Yankees might send him down and keep Ensberg or Laine as the first baseman or backup to Giambi. (It seems as though they really want Giambi out in the field - probably so Matsui can be the DH)

  2. Fran: I do think they want Giambi in the field, but I would think Duncan would get the nod over Laine?

  3. If Giambi doesn't play first then it will probably some kind of platoon. Most likely either Betemit/Duncan or Betemit/Ensberg

  4. Rebecca - the only thing with Duncan is that they have options on him and can send him down. If they don't keep Laine or Ensberg they loose them. I also wonder though if the Yankees still won't make a trade before the season starts for a "real" first baseman. I keep thinking Nick Johnson who can probably be had pretty cheaply.

  5. Personally I'd rather just DH Giambi so he stays as healthy as possible, using him at 1B only when someone else really NEEDS the DH spot.

    I would like to see what Shelly can do, given the at-bats. :)

  6. I hope Giambi can stay healthy and play first base five days a week this year. Then your backup becomes the best defender. I’m honestly not sure who that is, but I bet he’s a righty.

  7. Fran: Yeah, I'm sure Ensberg makes the roster, but until today I've not even been aware of Laine!

    Erik: I'd love it if it worked, but then you lose Matsui entirely.

  8. Rebecca - came over from lohud. Great post - was thinking about this today.

    Yanks can carry both Shelly and Ensberg or Lane. Since Ensberg has been at 3B probably 1B is no problem for him. Shelly has the advantage of playing both 1B and the corner OF spots, and we've got a bunch of lefties out there. Lane is an OF with limited 1B experience. Ensberg likely won't stay if demoted, but Lane might. So to me its between Shelly and Lane for the last spot. Another IF could sneak in instead (Woodward or Green) but I don't see Green being the guy, he should fit in nicely as insurance in Scranton. Woodward can play all over the place so he could be in the mix.

    My dream is that late in spring the Yanks trade to get Nick Johnson back from Washington. Maybe flip them Ensberg plus a pitching prospect (McCutcheon, Kontos or such) - we've got a million of em and can't ever use them all. Love to see Johnson with his solid D and great OBP back with the Yanks, plus he's signed for $5.5 mil for '08 and '09. Of course, that could get in the way of bringing in Teixeria in '09, but not necessarily.

  9. Anon--Like the thinking for the future!

    It's so weird not to have a set first basemen when we've been used to Donnie and Tino for so long, but these things have a way of working themselves out

  10. Rebecca - I think Ensberg over Laine as well.

    Anon - agree with you re:Nick Johnson. Can probably be had for very little and would be a good investment. When healthy Johnson is a good first baseman.