Monday, November 17, 2014

Yankees: How long before Bird is the word?

When a New York Yankees prospect makes headlines, it sometimes seems like it comes as part of a trade rumor. The Yankees have long used prospects as a tool to upgrade their roster midseason and often times send away a player who develops into a serviceable player elsewhere.

Things might be changing soon with the emergence of first baseman Gregory Bird. Bird, a fifth round selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, was named the 2014 Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player this past Saturday.

Bird is the first Yankees prospect to win the award. It came after a monstrous display at the plate. Bird led the AFL with six home runs and 21 runs scored. He was second in RBI (21), third in extra base hits (12) and slugging percentage (.556) and sixth in batting (.313). He hit a towering home run in the AFL All-Star Game which seemed to put his name on the map for those not familiar with the Yankees’ farm system.

Bird has progressed so nicely in the minors that some believe he could be ready for some major league time in 2016. That of course is very convenient as the Yankees current first baseman Mark Teixeira will be in the final year of his eight-year, $180 million contract. How great would it be for the Bombers to develop a power-hitting first baseman? It would be pretty fantastic actually!

Bird is not just a good hitter, he’s a patient one. He led all minor leaguers with 107 walks in 2013 and collected 63 free passes in 2014 (102 games).


Jim Callis of MLB.com gives a promising review.

"His left-handed swing can get long at times, but Bird's strength produces power to all fields and could play especially well in Yankee Stadium if he turns on pitches with more consistency," Callis said. "He projects as a .260 hitter with a healthy on-base percentage and 20 homers per year."

Bird seems to be an incredibly grounded individual, knowing that success comes with hard work and dedication.

"I was in Double-A the last month and played here for a month, so I got some reps against higher competition," Bird told MLB.com. "I learned to slow the game down. It'll be huge. I felt like I made some improvements at first base, but I feel I still have a long way to go."

Bird, 6' 3" and 215 lbs., has dealt with back issues, thus his move to first from catching once drafted. This could end up sapping some power as he ages, but at 22 years old, it shouldn’t be a major problem provided Bird manages it by building and maintaining a strong core.

Bird’s work the last two seasons and his display in the AFL have certainly put him into the discussion of getting some home grown positional talent up in the Bronx. We’ll have to pay particular attention to his start in 2015, likely at Double-A Trenton, and how quickly the Yankees look to advance him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

So long as Bird continues to be selective at the plate, and works to drive the ball to all fields, it seems as if Teixeira’s replacement could be in the system providing the Yankees with resources to spend elsewhere for 2017.

A welcome occurrence, indeed.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Logo courtesy of SportsLogos.net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.



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