Scouting Yankees Prospect #1: Greg Bird

Bird just needs to stay healthy

The Yankees selected first catcher Greg Bird in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Grandview High School in Colorado. Issues with his back and with the Yankees wanting to preserve his offensive talents he was moved to first base, and he responded with one of the best offensive seasons by a Yankee prospect in recent memory last year.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Greg Bird
Position: First Base
DOB: November 9, 1992
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 220
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

He had collected barely 100 professional at-bats in his first two seasons but bounced back in a huge way in his first full season last year, hitting .288 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs, and drawing a South Atlantic League leading 107 walks [33 more than the next highest player].

"It was a great year," he said. "The huge goal for me before the start of the season was just stay healthy for a full season, just to play that first full season. It's different playing in that many games.

"Just experiencing that was huge for me and I learned a lot of stuff along the way. It's just like they say, you can really only learn it by playing everyday. It was a great year. I'd say it was a successful year for me."

He was solid all season long but it was the positive strides he made all season that really turned some heads. He simply got better and stronger as the year progressed, hitting .295 with 15 of his home runs and posting an OPS over 1.000 after the All Star break.

"Baseball is hard enough and hitting is already hard enough trying to hit a ball that's 95 mph so in the second half I just tried to slow it down and just focus on getting a good pitch to hit and hit it hard," he said. "Whether you hit a double or home run, or you get out, that you can't control. All you can control is your approach and then go from there.

"I know in the second half that was another thing I tried to do -- I wasn't going out there and swinging out of my shoes but I did try to be more aggressive. When I did get ahead in counts I was trying to get that fastball and hit it, and I think that helped in the second half.

"My approach is to get my pitch. I'm not up there necessarily just taking but if I'm looking for a certain pitch and I don't get it then I'm not scared to hit with two strikes, I think that's a better way of putting it."

Even just 20 years old last season [he turned 21 this offseason] he employs a truly professional approach not only to hitting but to continuously learning the finer points of baseball. Like a sponge, he just wants to soak everything in.

"I didn't have any goals set. I just wanted to go out and take it day by day, and learn throughout the year. That's the key I think in the minor leagues, one, learn how to play baseball everyday and two, do it consistently, and then do it well consistently.

"It's a mental and physical process, and that's what the minor leagues are for. I think the quicker that somebody can figure that out the better off they'll be.

"I just tried to learn as much as I could each day about myself and the game, and take it from there. I think from that standpoint I'm way ahead from where I was at the beginning of the year -- way ahead."

He has played first base for all of one year and he acknowledges he still has some fine-tuning to do in that regard. And as great a year as he had offensively, he still thinks there is a lot of room for improvement going forward.

"I would say I had a solid year at first [base] but I still have a long way to go there just as far as refining little things; throwing on a pickoff when you've got a guy running to second, stuff like that. It's going to come with experience and time, but I definitely want to do a better job at that.

"Offensively I just want to keep going forward with my approach. You always want to cut down on those strikeouts but you don't want to make that your focus, not striking out. Even though I struck out [last] year I still had a productive year I think. I don't want to change that. You can always cut down on that and put the ball in play more with two strikes. The big thing for me in the offseason is just getting stronger and getting ready to go again," he concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2013 Charleston .288 458 36 20 84 84 1 107 132 .428 .511
2012 Staten Island .400 40 4 2 8 4 0 6 10 .489 .650
2012 GCL Yankees .286 49 2 0 5 9 0 11 13 .419 .367
2011 GCL Yankees .083 12 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 .154 .083


Batting and Power. Bird isn't going to be a good hitter, he already is! With plus patience, plus bat speed, advanced pitch recognition, an ability to use the whole field, and superb strike zone discipline, he is not only a very consistent hitter but he gets on base at a very high rate. While he has struck out quite a bit thus far, those numbers should go down as he learns to be more aggressive at the plate. Throw in above average power potential to all fields and the potential to have plus power to the pull side, he is an impact hitter in every sense of the term.

Base Running and Speed. While a bit rangy, Bird has very little actual foot speed and is more of a station to station runner.

Defense. Still relatively a novice at the position, Bird is actually ahead of the developmental game defensively. He shows high baseball acumen, soft hands, and an ability to make adjustments. He is also insatiable about learning the nuances of the position and it all should spell long-term above average defensive abilities.

Projection. With innate knowledge of the strike zone, employing a short but extremely quick stroke, and incredible patience, Bird was simply born to hit. Throw in a burning desire to constantly improve and a real ability to make adjustments, he should only get better as he gains more experience too. Throw in above average to plus power potential and he has run producer written all over him. He still has some work to do defensively but that will come in time as well. There are some legitimate comparisons to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

ETA. 2015. Bird is going to open up in high-A Tampa and he should he continue to put up the numbers he has thus far it shouldn't be long before he's called up to Double-A. He very well could be big league ready at some point the following year as long as he remains healthy.

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