The Yankees selected Greg Bird in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado, where he was serving as Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman's battery mate. The chances of Bird sticking as a catcher as a professional were slim, and a back injury ultimately moved him permanently over to first base. Bird's bat, however, has always been where his promise lies. He has a powerful left-handed swing that allows him to hit homers to all fields and tremendous plate discipline that keeps him from being an all-or-nothing hitter.
Bird's early professional career was hampered by injuries, but he's managed to turn in two nearly full seasons in 2013 and 2014 that have put him firmly on the top prospect radar. His breakout performance with the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs in 2013 raised his stock quite a bit, and he managed to keep up that momentum with another strong season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season before going on an absolute hitting rampage through the Arizona Fall League where he was named MVP this offseason.
Tampa (High-A) 75 games, .277/.375/.442, 7 home runs, 22 doubles
Trenton (Double-A) 27 games, .253/.379/.558, 7 home runs, 8 doubles
A back injury caused Bird to miss the first bit of the 2014 season, but he returned to put up an .817 OPS in the Florida State League over the course of 75 games before being promoted to Double-A. His 14 home runs across two levels were down from the 20 he hit the season before, which may have come from needing time to get back into a groove after healing from a back injury. He matched the seven home runs he hit with Tampa in just 27 games with the Thunder, showing that the power was obviously still there even in a more pitcher-friendly ballpark like the one in Trenton.
Bird went on to the Arizona Fall League after finishing up the minor league season. He led the league in home runs and runs scored while finishing second in RBI and total bases with an overall batting line of .313/.391/.556 with the Scottsdale Scorpions. Bird was ultimately named MVP of the AFL after crushing a monster home run in the Fall Stars game that went up into the batter's eye in center field.
Prospect evaluators have taken note of Bird's success, ranking him among the best prospects in the game. He's appeared alongside Aaron Judge and Luis Severino as Yankee representatives on nearly every top 100 list that has been compiled this offseason. Bird was also ranked as the third-best first base prospect in the game. That's all very high praise for a prospect that plays a position that is sort of looked down upon by those who cover prospects. It means that they think his bat is very legit with a good chance of playing at the big league level.
Bird's stock will only continue to rise with another season like the previous two. He should start the season off at Double-A Trenton before hopefully being ready to move up to Triple-A in the second half of the year. His proximity to the big leagues and Mark Teixeira's injury history make him an intriguing option going forward, but it's unlikely that he sees any big league time in 2015. Staying healthy and productive in the upper levels of the minors would be a great accomplishment in its own right.
As a non-roster invitee to big league camp, Bird will also get a chance to show his skills off against tougher competition in spring training. That should give the team (and fans) a chance to see how he performs on a slightly bigger stage. If the bat is everything we think and hope it is as he continues to climb up the minor league ladder, having just another year or so to see Bird in the Bronx will be more than worth the wait.