Tuesday, November 1, 2016

SNY: Can Yankees' Bird answer the call in 2017?

Photo: Arturo Pardavilla III
New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird soared once called up to the big leagues in 2015, seemingly easing the then impending loss of veteran first baseman Mark Teixeira considering his contract would expire in 2016. Instead, Bird missed the entire 2016 season after surgery on his right shoulder, calling into question his potential imprint on the Yankees 2017 roster.

I felt that Bird was going to be an important piece to the 2016 season. Despite Teixeira's and Alex Rodriguez's comeback seasons in 2015, each had questions marks coming into 2016. Teixeira's season-ending injury in 2015 was just another in a growing line of maladies, and believing a 40-year-old Rodriguez could duplicate his 2015 season was risky.

Bird, a top prospect for the club (he was ranked No. 4 by MLB Pipeline among Yankees' prospects prior to the call-up), made fans forget about Teixeira quickly. The left-handed hitter roped nine doubles, smacked 11 home runs and drove in 31 runs in route to a .871 OPS (135 OPS+). Bird also played sound defense at first base, while blending in well with his teammates. The Yankees were in the middle stages of a transition to younger players, making Bird's success something to be excited about with some of his former teammates making noise in the minor leagues.

Bird's absence from the roster this season hurt the Yankees as Teixeira, Rodriguez, and to a lesser extent Brian McCann, struggled in the middle of the lineup. Taking into account Teixeira and Rodriguez are no longer on the squad, in my opinion, Bird becomes the most important position player next season.

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