2018 Pinstripe Preview: Greg Bird
For all the hype and intrigue surrounding this Yankee team and their young stars as they open spring training, perhaps one of the most intriguing players heading into this season is Greg Bird. After bursting onto the scene in the second half of the 2015 season, Bird has struggled to remain on the field and missed significant portions of the last two seasons. After tearing up spring training 2017, Bird missed most of 2017 with reoccurring foot and ankle injuries but was able to return in August for the stretch run and the playoffs. When he has been on the field Bird has shown solid defensive capabilities and hitting chops that fit Yankee Stadium perfectly. The key question as always is, is this the year he will finally stay healthy? If he can, Bird will be a big addition to a Yankee lineup that already looks loaded.
|Credit: Rich Schultz/AP Photo|
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a 2017 to review for Bird. He played in just 48 regular season games in addition to seven postseason games. Bird tore up last spring training but fouled a ball off his ankle on the last day and that threw his season off course. He played in 19 games to start the year and was never able to get going. His ankle wasn’t healthy, and he didn’t look comfortable at the plate. Finally, after going 6-60 to start the season he was shut down and put on the DL in hopes that his badly bruised ankle would finally heal. Bird’s injuries healed slowly and after an exploratory surgery in mid-July put his season in doubt, Bird finally healed up and was able to return on August 26th.
For the season, Bird put up a .190 batting average with nine homers and 28 RBI with a .288 OBP. In the field, Bird played in 46 games at first base and did not commit an error. He looked much more comfortable at the plate after returning from injury and delivered several big hits down the stretch and into the postseason. The most notable of these was his dramatic tie breaking home run off Andrew Miller in ALDS Game 3 against the Cleveland Indians. Bird was a welcome addition to a Yankee team that struggled to replace his presence at first base all season long. With no established backup on the roster heading into the spring, the Yankees will again look to Bird with hope that he’ll finally put it all together.
Despite all the highs and lows he has already endured in his Major League career, Bird is still just 25 years old and primed for a breakout year. He was once described by Brian Cashman as the best pure hitter in the organization and the Yankees appear to still have tremendous faith in him as the everyday first baseman of the future. He plays in a park that is absolutely perfect for his hitting style and, although he may not flash the leather like Mark Teixeira, he uses his 6’3” frame well to hold down first base. The injuries have definitely been concerning and even though his shoulder injury in 2016 was serious, his injuries last season were more bad luck than anything. The Yankees can only hope that their luck starts to come around with Bird starting this season. If he remains healthy, Bird will be an important piece that should deepen the lineup and break up the Yankees’ right-handed power hitters. If he plays a full season, I think a .260-.270 average with 25 or so homers is a reasonable projection for “The Bird Man of New York”. Hopefully Bird comes to spring training feeling good and gets his work in, but part of me also wants the Yankees to keep him in bubble wrap until opening day. We’ve seen flashes to this point in his career, but we haven’t seen it all come together. If 2018 is the year that it happens, then it will be yet another reason for fans to be excited about the potential of this team going forward.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930