In the off-season of 2009, the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira who helped them in winning the world series that year and played at pretty a high-level in multiple season with them afterwards. The countless injuries he had towards the end of his contract really dampened his abilities to produce offensively and defensively, which lead him to announcing his retirement before the end of last year. However, he played out the rest of season, which surprised some Yankee fans. Knowing beforehand in 2015 that his days were numbered, and considering he had some lingering injuries, they brought up Greg Bird in early August. They brought up a rookie to start in the midst of a playoff race. They must have seen something in him that no one really saw yet themselves.
In that month and a half that he started, he knew he had big shoes to fill and make the most out of that opportunity. In the 46 games he played, he slashed a pretty impressive .261/.343/.529, while hitting 11 homers and driving in 31 batters. In a short amount of time, Yankees fans got to witness a young kid with a beautiful built for the stadium and some who could play some pretty stellar defense. We all were excited after the season to find out what we would see out of him next, as he was playing his way to becoming the next Yankees starting first baseman.
2016 did not start the way he, or any fan, would have hoped for as he needed to have surgery to repair a right shoulder labrum tear. This forced him to miss the entire 2016 season. His bat would have been useful during the second half youth movement, along with Teixeira becoming unproductive in the last year of his contract. Fast forward to spring training of this year, where the hype around him was there like it never left. Granted in spring training hitters typically see lower-level pitching or pitchers who obviously are not nearly at the top of their game yet, but slashing .451/.556/1.098 in 23 games is definitely not something that should be overlooked. On top of that he hit 8 homers, had 15 RBIs, and 16 out of his 23 hits went for extra-bases. The buzz around him was so great that some believed he was a better and more pure hitter than Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. Bird has the ability to hit well for average and have immense power, along with playing above average defense. He was firing on all cylinders before the start of the season, which once again filled the fan-base with tons of intrigue.
Enter the 2017 season. Bird was on a team in which the baseball world pegged to not make much noise in the American League. Right out of the gate he struggled, having only 1 hit and 13 strikeouts in his first 26 at-bats. He had one game against the Cardinals where he went 3 for 3 with a double and a homer, showing a glimpse of what fans saw in spring training. However, the rest of the month was bleak to say the least. After May 1st, he was slashing .100/.250/.200 with 1 homer, 3 RBIs, and 22 strikeouts. Many fans, including myself, were shocked to see how poorly he was hitting. We could all notice the holes he had in his swing that needed to be fixed and it seemed like he just was getting “unlucky” for the most part. On May 2nd he was put on the disabled list with a right foot bruise that was believed by some to have occurred late in spring training when he fouled a ball off his foot. Some thought, maybe even Bird, that it should’ve been diagnosed or at least somehow noticed before hand so he would have been more cautious about it. He went on to miss almost four months of baseball, which included a couple of setbacks in his rehab that prompted some to believe that he wouldn’t play for the rest of the season. He proved those doubters wrong and came back to start on August 26th.
In his first 6 games back he hit .333, had 2 homers and 9 RBIs, which was probably better than some expected him to be after his horrid play in the beginning of the season. He then slowed down, having only 3 hits, no homers, and 1 RBI in his next 10 games. Once again, some fans thought his days as a starter were numbered and were thinking past this season about the possibility of signing someone like Eric Hosmer in the off-season. To be honest, I wasn’t happy that he continued to struggle and that it seemed like he just wasn’t there yet. However, not once did I believe that he wouldn’t be apart of the team’s future and that he still, with time, could be the player most thought he would be after 2015. Lately he has somewhat returned to form. Since September 15th, he has slashed .269/.367/.731 with 3 homers and 9 RBIs. The swing is looking as nice as ever, he’s not really missing anything he gets, and seems to be having a little more patience at the plate.
So, has he been worth the wait? The boring answer would be that it’s hard to tell with only the limited amount of games he’s played and that we’ll soon see. I’d rather go with the straightforward answer and go with yes! He’s finally starting to have more quality at-bats, the power stroke is finally showing itself, and he has shown multiple times that his defense can only get better than it already is. I can definitely see him being a consistently good hitter for the next few years, hitting above .270, more than 25 home runs, and possibly reaching over 100 RBIs. I truly think that is how high his ceiling is and that he can reach it come the next season. Greg Bird is apart of the Yankees future that is filled with young and productive talent.
Photo Credits: CBS New York