BBDP: Breakout candidate 2013; Greg Bird is the word

BBDP Nickname: “Birdman”

Greg Bird didn’t get a lot of love on prospect lists, including our own here at BBD. In fact, we ranked him at just 35 after this season was over.  Greg Bird has the talent to make us regret that ranking, and he may do that sooner rather than later.

Bird was one of the players the Yankees over slotted in the 2011 draft. He barely saw any time that season due to injury. He also missed a good portion of the 2012 season from a back injury, which prompted the Yankees brass to move him from catcher to first base.

The immediate impact of this decision was to decrease his value significantly. First basemen who can hit are a dime a dozen in the major leagues, and it is not a particularly difficult position to play defensively. Of course there are defensive superstars like Mark Teixeira who increase their value by being superb at preventing runs, but the most important thing you must do as a first baseman is hit, and hit for power.

Bird, however, can do just that. He has wowed coaches and scouts alike with his ability to square the ball and hit for power since he got healthy this season. At instructs, more of the same. He has a good chance to explode onto the scene in 2013 much like Mason Williams did in 2011. If he hits like he is capable of hitting, it won’t matter what position he plays; he will be a top prospect.

2011 was the first year when Bird had extended playing time. All he did was hit .337/.450/.494/.944 over two levels, Rookie and Short Season Staten Island. He hit just two homeruns but he also had six doubles and a triple in just 89 at bats. The one flaw is that he struck out 23 times during that span. Over a 500 at bat season that means he would have struck out 129 times. That’s not horrible but it’s also not great.

The now 20 year old prospect measures 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 224-pounds, a good sized athlete. His swing is short, straight to the ball, and compact. It’s your classic power stroke. He’s also a patient hitter as indicated by his .450 OBP and 17 walks on the season.

It remains to be seen what he will be able to do defensively as a first baseman, however scouts say that he is athletic enough to make the move. He has the ability to be a plus first baseman if he is willing to work at it.

The main knock on Bird is now that he’s a first baseman he will have to hit all the way up the ladder if he wants to ever contribute to the major league team.  This is the reason for the low rankings he has received. He hasn’t hit in any of the full season leagues yet, and until he does there is no telling where he stands.

He has the potential to be a middle of the order hitter with 40 homerun power within his reach. His ceiling is obviously an all-star first baseman, but if I haven’t made it clear above his floor is a complete fade out. If he has a big year at Charleston in 2013 the picture will start to get a lot more clear, and he will shoot up the rankings. He could easily be a top 10 talent by next season depending on how things shake out.

The estimated time of arrival is difficult in a guy who hasn’t even played full season baseball yet. Assuming he is in Charleston next season, I would project him as a guy who goes one to two levels at a time, making his debut in 2016-2017.

Bird is the type of player this farm system has lacked since the departure of Jesus Montero. He is a pure hitter, and one that has exceptional power potential. He will never fill Montero’s shoes as a super prospect because of his position, but he could pave his own way to the majors and have a long, successful career if things go right.

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