At the end of 2015, it appeared as if the New York Yankees found themselves with a new face at first base. When Mark Teixeira went down with a leg injury in August of that year, Greg Bird took over the starting job at first. In 46 games he batted .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBI and looked ready to take over a big chunk of the games at first in 2016.
However, a shoulder injury he experienced in May of 2015 resurfaced during the offseason, forcing him into surgery. The surgery on the torn labrum was successful, but it cost Bird the entire 2016 season. Fast forward more than a year, and we find Greg Bird playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.
The 24-year-old elected to play in the AFL to try and prepare himself for the 2017 season, where he is set to start at first for the Yanks following the retirement of Teixeira. Bird, who won the Joe Black MVP Award in the 2014 AFL season, looked to get as many swings in as possible before the season begins. In 65 at-bats he collected 14 hits, scored nine times, and knocked in ten runs. The AFL also allowed Bird to act as a veteran presence, having spent more time in the majors than the rest of the Scorpions.
Any player coming off a season-long injury faces the question of how they will perform when competitive play begins. Greg Bird is fortunate enough to have the first base position waiting for him when play begins, so what should we expect from the Bird Man in 2017?
With a shoulder injury, it brings about the concern of the loss of power and impact with the ball. However, an injury like Bird’s has its success stories, the most notable being former teammate Brian McCann. McCann underwent the same surgery in 2012 and returned just seven months later without any drop off in home run numbers. You can expect the same from Bird, who is chomping at the bit to get back to Yankee Stadium and take advantage of that short porch in right field.
Bird joins a team full of Baby Bombers anxious to get their shot at making a name for themselves in 2017. Gary Sanchez has already done that and figures to bat next to Bird in the lineup, which will help both of their numbers. Bird will likely slot into the cleanup spot with Gardner, Ellsbury, and Sanchez in front of him.
What’s interesting for Bird is that he was a better hitter away from the Bronx in his two months with the Yankees in 2015. He slashed .292/.381/.611 with six homers and 17 RBI in 20 games on the road. Now that he is presented with a chance at playing half of his games at Yankee Stadium expect him to make good use of that short porch in right. His 44.8 percent hard contact, 41 percent pull, and 51.4 to 26.7 percent air-to-ground ratio leave him in a good position to reach the 25 mark in homers in 2017.
While it’s still very possible that the Yankees will sign someone this offseason to play some games at first, the spot solely belongs to Bird. If he can spend the rest of the offseason healthy and regaining his swing back, you can expect big things from the Bird Man in 2017. Don’t be surprised if he is one of the team’s leading hitters along with Sanchez next season.
Projected Line: .270/.350/.495, 25 homers, 75 RBI