The Yankees began their Grapefruit League schedule about two weeks ago. In that time, fans and evaluators alike zeroed in on the bevy of top prospects and young talent. Perhaps no player has been as microscopically analyzed as Greg Bird. The first baseman, and his surgically repaired shoulder, drew attention from the moment he arrived in camp.
For his part, Bird hasn’t missed a beat. Over the course of six games, he’s hit .462/.563/1.308 with three home runs and two doubles. He looked very much like the player who took the Yankees by storm in 2015. Of course there’s small sample noise in there. No stretch of spring training statistics is immune to that. Nevertheless, the hitting skills are on display.
There’s also been the power show. Bird has always been known to have exceptional power. He hit 11 home runs in just 46 games in 2015, after all. In the event that people forgot his power, Bird delivered a reminder with a blast over the Green Monster in Fort Myers or the moonshot out of George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Bird’s strong showing must be a relief to the Yankees. It’s reasonable if they expected him to still have rust to shake off. This is especially true considering his lackluster Arizona Fall League; he hit .215/.346/.354 without playing the field at all. There were serious questions surrounding Bird prior Grapefruit League play.
Brian Cashman insisted all offseason long that there would be a fair competition for the first base job. Tyler Austin posed the largest in-house threat, while Chris Carter was brought in to add to the competition. Bird was always the favorite, but there was the slight possibility that he could have opened the season in Triple-A. In all likelihood the competition talk was used as a cover in case Bird looked completely unplayable. For now, he seems to have secured the starting first baseman job.
There are still areas for Bird to work on. He’s yet to master hitting against left-handed pitching, and there were the baserunning blunders against the Orioles. On the latter he’s shown an aptitude for making adjustments. “I'll work on it. Those are bad reads, plain and simple,” he told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. The jury is still out on the former.
All shortcomings considered, this has been a revelatory spring for the Yankees and Bird. He’s met every one of their priorities. Healthy? Check. Playing the field? Check. Hitting well? Check. I couldn’t have anticipated a stronger start. He looks exactly like he did when we him last in 2015.
Fans should always remember to view spring training performances with cautious optimism. Things can change in a hurry, so it’s smart to temper expectations. Nonetheless, things are looking bright for Bird. If this success translate to the regular season, then the Yankees will receive an enormous boost. They were always going to be interesting, but with a healthy and productive Bird they could be quite good.