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Yankees prospect profile: Greg Bird

The second of three dingers I was treated to by Bird.
The second of three dingers I was treated to by Bird.
Tanya Bondurant

The Yankees selected Greg Bird out of Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. He signed for a $1.1 million signing bonus, deciding to forego his prior commitment to play at the University of Arkansas. Bird was originally drafted as a catcher, but has since moved to first base after a back injury prevented him from continuing his career behind the plate.

Injuries derailed Bird's 2012 season between the Gulf Coast League and Short Season Staten Island. He played only 28 games, but did manage a 143 wRC+ and a 229 wRC+, respectively, over an extremely small sample size. As a healthy player for pretty much the first time since being drafted by the Yankees, Bird has done nothing but hit all season for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs with a .294/.418/.517 batting line on the season, good enough for a 165 wRC+.

As a left-handed hitter, Bird has fared better against righties than lefties in the South Atlantic League this year. In 261 at-bats against right-handed pitching, Bird owns a .299/.433/.529 line with 10 home runs. Against southpaws, Bird has hit to the tune of .277/.368/.482 with five home runs in 83 at-bats. His 26 doubles on the season rank fourth in the Sally League. Perhaps the most impressive part of Bird's game this season has been his remarkable patience at the plate, having drawn 71 walks in 344 at-bats on the year. For a 20-year-old in Low-A, that's extremely impressive. His .417 on-base percentage is good enough for fourth in the Sally League. His 71 walks lead the league by 13 over his nearest competition, and Bird's 15 homers are the seventh highest in the SAL.

Before the 2013 season, Bird received his first invitation to big league spring training as a non-roster invitee. Judging by his season numbers, there should be no doubt about his readiness to move on to High-A Tampa as soon as the end of this year, or for the beginning of next season at the very latest. Despite the rocky start with injuries that Bird had to begin his professional career he's been healthy so far in 2013, having played in 93 games for Charleston so far.

The best game of his young career so far likely came on July 19 against the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Bird went 4-5 with three home runs and drove in all seven runs for the RiverDogs in the game. His three home runs came in each of his first three at-bats of the game, the first being a solo shot in the first inning, a two-run homer in the third, and a three-run home run in the fourth to fall a grand slam short of the home run cycle. His previous career-high in RBI had been five which he set only three weeks before he out-did himself in Greensboro.

Being only 20 years old and currently blocked for the foreseeable future at the major league level, the Yankees don't need to rush Bird through the system too quickly. If he can shake his history of injuries and continue hitting as he advances to higher levels of the minors, Bird could be a contender for the first base job when Mark Teixieira's contract is over in 2017. That would allow him to spend one year at each level between Tampa and Scranton between 2014 and 2016 if that was necessary for adjustment. With the way that he's hitting now it may very well not be, and for all we know, Teixeira may be a DH by that point in his career. The system is pretty void of any first base talent that you'd consider real prospects at higher levels than Charleston, so very little should stand in his way of moving forward if he continues to hit the way he has for the RiverDogs this year.

Bird should find himself propelled into good standing on most, if not all, Yankee prospect lists for next season unless things dramatically change for him over the final months of the minor league season. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see him promoted to Tampa when the late-season final wave of promotions occur, but he could also finish out the year in Charleston and call his first season as a professional that wasn't dramatically shortened because of injury a success. First base prospects tend not to be in very high demand because the general feeling is that even the most oafish of players can stand there with a glove when you need to get their bat into the lineup. That being the case, the switch from catcher to first may hamper his value going forward, and he'll absolutely need to hit to stick as a corner infielder. So far this season, he's shown he can do that with the best of his competition.

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