To say that the Yankees need Greg Bird and James Kaprielian to be good is a bit of an understatement. Both young players fill very obvious big league needs, and both have impressed in the time they’ve spent in the system. Bird and Kaprielian are both coming off serious injuries that cost them a big chunk of playing time, so their Arizona Fall League numbers will be monitored pretty closely.
Bird is, of course, the more immediate need. He could presumably step right into the vacancy left by Mark Teixeira in New York to begin the 2017 season. He was very impressive in his time with the big league club in 2015 before shoulder surgery cost him the entire 2016 season.
In two games for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Bird is batting .375/.444/.750 with three hits, all doubles. Bird has driven in two runs and walked once as well. Two games won’t tell you a lot, to be sure, but it is promising to see the bat look explosive the way it did before the labrum surgery.
Being sent to Arizona is a way for Bird to get into real games against real competition as he looks toward an official return in spring training. The last time Bird played in the AFL, he dominated the league. His numbers might not end up as impressive this time around while he tries to shake off the rust, but seeing him succeed is a very welcome sight.
Kaprielian didn’t miss the entire 2016 season, but he missed nearly all of it. It felt like he might end up needing Tommy John surgery because of how long the injury was dragging on. Luckily, no surgery was needed. Kaprielian was doing incredibly impressive stuff until he got hurt, and the Yankees desperately needed a pitching prospect they could count on to emerge.
Like Bird, Kaprielian’s first taste of AFL action went as well as anyone could have hoped. He started Wednesday night’s game for Scottsdale and pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out six batters. Kaprielian was also able to hit as high as 97 on the gun in his first live game action since returning from his elbow injury.
Yankees prospects have the future looking brighter than fans have been used to as of late, and these two guys are big components of that. Bird should get a full season of big league action this year, and Kaprielian might be able to work his way into the big league picture sometime next year. For a team working through a mini rebuild with tons of roster turnover, this is the best news you can get.
In other Yankee AFL news, Dillon Tate pitched two innings out of the bullpen for Scottsdale. He struck out three batters, but allowed one hit and one run. J.P. Feyereisen got a save with a scoreless inning in which he struck out two batters.
Offensively, Miguel Andujar has picked up three hits in two games including a triple. Shortstop Gleyber Torres homered in his first AFL game with the Yankees and Tyler Wade walked and stole a base.
All of the Yankees on the Scorpions roster have impressed so far, and that’s always a great thing to see. It’s early still, but it’s something to hang your hat on while waiting for the Yankees to return in the spring.