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Pedro Alvarez is the best choice to back up Mark Teixeira

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Greg Bird, the previous backup, is out for the season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum.

Could Pedro Alvarez soon be wearing pinstripes?
Could Pedro Alvarez soon be wearing pinstripes?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Before the New York Yankees even reported for Spring Training, they had already lost their backup first basemen Greg Bird. Bird was a huge insurance policy in the (likely) case that Mark Teixeira misses time. The plan now is for Dustin Ackley to back up Teixeira, but can the Yankees improve behind Teixeira? Dustin Ackley has played only 22 games and slightly above 106 innings at first base in his career, so he is not the most experienced person to play first base in the event Teixeira is injured.

We will assume the player chosen below will replace Pete Kozma for the final spot on the bench because he is a non-roster invitee and the least secure member of the potential 25-man roster. Combining the projection models Steamer, ZiPS, and Marcel, let's take a closer look at the options available to the Yankees.

Player

WAR

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

Justin Morneau

0.6

.280

.334

.456

102

Pedro Alvarez

0.5

.239

.314

.455

110

Ryan Raburn

0.1

.246

.319

.421

100

Corey Hart

-0.2

.234

.288

.392

90

Justin Morneau and Pedro Alvarez stand out as the best available options for the Yankees. Ryan Raburn and Corey Hart can provide additional outfield depth as well as back up first base, but they fall short when compared with Morneau and Alvarez. The Yankees already have outfield depth consisting of Aaron Hicks, Dustin Ackley, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Aaron Judge, so any additional outfield depth is not necessary. Corey Hart’s 2016 projections coupled with his injury history will do more harm than good for the Yankees. Ryan Raburn is best suited for a platoon role, which the Yankees cannot provide for him. He may provide some value to the Yankees in 2016 but not enough to warrant a guaranteed deal.

As a former MVP with the Minnesota Twins in 2006, Justin Morneau is the most accomplished player on this list. Unfortunately for Morneau and the Yankees, he is not the MVP player he was 10 years ago. Concussions and age have quickened the decline for the 35-year-old first baseman. Morneau is projected to be a league average hitter and slightly above replacement level overall in 2016. Unfortunately, he is strictly a first basemen and is not as versatile a player as Pedro Alvarez can be.

Pedro Alvarez has the ability to play both first and third base, which can fill another need for the Yankees - backing up Chase HeadleyStarlin Castro is the currently-projected backup to Headley, but he is also the starting second baseman. The importance of having Pedro Alvarez back up Headley is so that there would not be a hole at second base if Castro had to play third base full time. Pete Kozma is the currently-projected backup at second, but he gets replaced in this hypothetical. Dustin Ackley is next on the list - Ackley can't back up first base and start at second base if Headley gets injured. Kozma's current role is that of an infield jack-of-all-trades; Ackley can fill a similar role should Kozma depart, but that still leaves a hole for the backup first baseman.

Alvarez is the only player in the above table projected to hit above league average, but Alvarez's projections may be misleading; Alvarez is a nice fit for Yankee Stadium. Here is a look at Pedro Alvarez's 2015 home runs overlayed with Yankee Stadium from ESPN Home Run Tracker:

Pretty much everything is gone, and gone by a lot. Comparing Yankee Stadium to PNC Park in Pittsburgh doesn't reveal anything about his homers, but there is a definite short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. Alvarez has good pull power, so it's reasonable to expect some flyouts to deep right at PNC Park would become dingers in Yankee Stadium.

Since Pedro Alvarez is the best option to backup Mark Teixeira at first base, the next question is if the Yankee bench is better with a combination of Dustin Ackley and Pete Kozma or Dustin Ackley and Pedro Alvarez.

Total WAR

Total WAR/600

Dustin Ackley and Pete Kozma

1.0

2.5

Dustin Ackley and Pedro Alvarez

1.4

3.7

Advantage

Ackley/Alvarez - +.4

Ackley/Alvarez - +1.2

According to the above table, if the Yankees proceed with Dustin Ackley backing up 2B/SS and Pedro Alvarez backing up 1B/3B they will be at an advantage over the combination of Ackley (1B/2B/SS) and Kozma (2B/SS/3B). Even if Teixeira stays healthy, the combination of Ackley and Alvarez is a better bench. The larger the role necessary behind the starters, the larger the WAR gap becomes. Alvarez is the best choice to back up Teixeira.

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Carl Triano is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score