It should be of no surprise to any Yankees fan that Greg Bird will be an important part of the 2018 season, largely because of how he finished the last one. The projections may not show it, and I would imagine your non-Yankees fan friends won’t be drafting him that high in fantasy, but everyone in the know (or, those who know that Bird is the word) understands that Bird is the closest thing to a known sleeper, paradoxical as that sounds.
This is because we know what Bird looks like when he is actually healthy; he’s the same player that hit a game-winning home run against Andrew Miller, and had a 128 wRC+ in the second half and a 151 wRC+ in the postseason. So let’s say the projections went with the best possible Bird season in 2018. What would that look like, and what would that mean for the organization?
Let’s, for the sake of example, say that his best possible season line would match his second half. That’s even being generous for “best case” but a 128 wRC+ over a full season would be mighty fine considering the Chris Carter experience of yesteryear.
Extrapolated to a full season, it would be a .253/.316/.575 triple slash with 28 home runs over a 150-game period. That’s... pretty good! 30-home-run power with a decent average and average first base power numbers mean he would be in the top half of first basemen in the league, and would also cement him as the everyday player over, say, an Adam Lind competitor.
Let’s say that his postseason is actually his best, or thereabouts. That would give him a .399 wOBA with 34 home runs over a 150-game period. That’s... elite! The only first basemen with a wOBA over .400 are Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, and Joey Votto, so basically the creme of the crop. If we were to lower that threshold to the second half line, it would place him near Yonder Alonso and Joey Gallo on the wOBA leaderboards, which is also more than acceptable.
The second half scenario makes him something like a three-win player, and the latter “playoff” Bird more likely a four-win, or elite-level, player. If we were to call that his best case scenario, it would mean the Yankees have a top-ten first basemen in baseball, still under team control.
Even in the best case, of course, injury will always loom. We saw Carter last year and Lind this year, so until Bird puts up at least two full, consecutive healthy seasons, there is always going to be concerns from the organization despite the fact they find him one of the better pure hitters on the club.
But if his best case is any indication, anywhere from a 120 to 150 wRC+ hitter is still within the 30th-percentile range of the projections, and I think anyone who has watched him know that he passes the eye test. I’m sure Andrew Miller would agree with that.