Greg Bird was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado. Originally a catcher, Bird drew a lot of interest from scouts as Orioles draftee Kevin Gausman's battery mate at Grandview. Bird was regarded as the best prospect in Colorado heading into the 2011 draft after he'd committed to Arkansas, which he decided to pass up in favor of signing with the Yankees.
Injuries have kept Bird off the field a bit in his young Yankees career, with only four games of Rookie Ball and 28 games between Rookie Ball and Short Season-A Staten Island under his belt until playing a full season in 2013. A back injury forced the Yankees to permanently relocate Bird from behind the plate to first base but his bat has always been his calling card to the Major Leagues. His defense may still be a little rough around the edges as he continues to adjust to his new position, but he has a good arm and the strong work ethic to continue to improve his glove at first base. Charleston's coaches were complimentary of the strides Bird made defensively to improve his range and footwork.
Low-A Charleston: 130 games, .288/.428/.511, 36 doubles, 20 home runs, 107 walks
A healthy season was a productive one for Bird with the Charleston RiverDogs. He managed to stay on the field for the entire year for the first time as a professional and the results landed him a spot at #8 on Baseball America's Top 10 Yankees Prospects list. Bird led the Minors in walks with 107 and clubbed 20 homers despite Charleston's home ballpark hampering his production. Away from the unfriendly confines of The Joe, Bird hit a spectacular .328/.470/.608 with 15 of his home runs coming on the road in an equal amount (65) of games. He put up a .248/.383/.412 batting line at home.
Bird received South Atlantic League Player of the Week and Post-Season All-Star awards with the RiverDogs. He walked only 25 times less than he struck out and managed to not be neutralized by left-handed pitchers despite being a left-handed batter himself. His OPS against each side (.867 vs. LHP and .959 vs. RHP) being comparable in 2013 is a comforting sign.
Bird should begin the 2014 season in Tampa with the High-A Tampa Yankees, but another season like he had in 2013 could warrant a mid-season promotion if the numbers are there. Having just turned 21 years old in November, it's not unreasonable to think that he could traverse more than one level this upcoming season if he continues his hot-hitting ways in the Florida State League. The big thing for Bird will be whether or not he can stay on the field again in 2014, which will be important for his development, and whether his bat can carry him to the Majors as a first baseman. First basemen have to hit and Bird has done a lot of that in his time with the Yankees. He doesn't have the flashy tools to wow you like some other prospects do, so a lot will ride on how far his bat can take him.
With Mark Teixeira firmly entrenched at first base for the next few years in New York, Bird has some time to develop and continue improving upon on his defense at first base. His lefty swing is pretty much made for Yankee Stadium if he can prove his worth against better pitchers at the upper levels of the Minors. First basemen aren't as highly regarded as other position players because of the mentality that anyone could play first base if given the chance, but Bird's bat has the chance to be special and it's easy to dream on a prospect with his kind of home run power and patience at the plate even at the lower levels of the system.
Fun fact: Did you know that Greg Bird once hit three home runs for me? He did, and you can read about that and an earlier profile I wrote on Bird by clicking right here.
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