2015 Statistics: Triple-A - 34 games, .301/.353/.500, 6 HR. MLB - 46 games, .261/.343/.529, 11 HR.
2016 Contract Status: Under team control
The Yankees lost their resurgent first baseman to a broken leg in August, which could have spelled doom for the team if they hadn't had a rookie waiting in the wings to get his first taste of the big leagues. Greg Bird traversed three levels of play to end his season with the Yankees, providing real hope for the future homegrown Yankees and softening the blow of losing Mark Teixeira.
As a lefty with power, Bird's swing is perfectly suited for bombs in Yankee Stadium. However, the talented rookie showed off his skills by not just relying on the short porch for his home runs. He showed an ability to hit for power to all fields in his relatively short time with the Yankees, keeping him from being the kind of one-dimensional power hitter that only swings for the fences. Starting the season at Double-A, it might have been easy to assume that Bird wasn't quite ready for the big stage, but universal praise from his teammates makes it sound like Bird came to New York ready and willing to learn as much as he could to improve his game and hang around.
Strikeouts were the one real shortfall Bird showed in his time with the Yankees in 2015. Pitchers were able to get him to chase balls high in the zone despite his renowned plate discipline that has been prevalent in his time as a professional. Having been converted from catcher to first base, there were also some moments of learning on defense that seem like they will improve in time. Still, he was unable to be Teixeira with the glove immediately. That shouldn't really be considered a knock on the young left-hander, because Teixeira has proven to be one of the best in the business at first base. Bird's worth ethic is unquestioned, and defense is one of the places where he'll need to continue to grow as he progresses.
Bird's audition with the Yankees went as well as anyone could have hoped for, but Teixeira's return to the team next year could mean that Bird simply doesn't have a position with the big league club. The team will have to determine whether they think it is more beneficial for Bird to be reduced to a part time player at the big league level where he can fill in at first base or DH a few times per week, or whether one of their best prospects would be best suited to playing every day at Triple-A until such an opportunity arises in New York. Whichever way they choose, Bird should be ready to step in for Teixeira after the veteran's contract expires at the end of 2016. Banking on both Rodriguez and Teixeira to stay healthy for the entire season as they turn a year older would be sort of foolish anyway, and Bird will surely be there to step in where he is needed.