Oct
23

Prospect Profile: Greg Bird

By
(The Post and Courier)

(The Post and Courier)

Greg Bird | 1B

Background
Bird hails from Grandview High School just outside of Denver, where he played with current Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman. As scouts flocked to Colorado to see Gausman, Bird benefited from the increased exposure. He was named the state’s High School Player of the Year after hitting .533 with a dozen homeruns as a senior. Bird committed to Arkansas.

Prior to the 2011 draft, Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Bird as the best prospect in Colorado but not as one of the 200 best draft prospects in the class. He was generally considered the type of player who would benefit from three years in college before turning pro. The Yankees felt differently and selected Bird with their fifth round pick, the 179th overall selection. They bought him away from the Razorbacks with a $1.1M bonus on signing deadline day, the largest bonus they gave to a draftee in 2011.

Pro Career
Bird played in only four games with the Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate after signing, going 1-for-13 (-22 wRC+) with four strikeouts. Nagging back pain limited him to only 28 games following Extended Spring Training in 2012, during which he hit .337/.450/.494 (~180 wRC+) in 109 plate appearances split between the GCL squad and Short Season Staten Island. Bird broke out this season with Low-A Charleston, hitting .288/.428/.511 (170 wRC+) with 20 homers and 107 walks in 573 plate appearances across 130 games.

Scouting Report
Bird is a bat first — bordering on bat only, really — prospect who will go only as far as his left-handed swing takes him. He hits from a slight couch and has shown he can consistently get loft and backspin on the ball. His swing does not qualify as short or compact, but it is direct to the ball and he allows pitches to travel deep in the zone before attacking, giving him the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field for power. Bird is a very disciplined and patient hitter who will take his walks but jump all over a pitch he likes. He’s a very smart and instinctual hitter, not just a brute masher.

Pre-draft concerns about Bird’s ability to catch long-term proved not to be unfounded when the Yankees moved him out from behind the plate following his back trouble in 2012. He is now a full-time first baseman who has a strong arm but is still learning the ropes around the bag. Bird’s range and quickness in the field is limited, unsurprisingly. He is listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs. and won’t wow anyone with raw athleticism. He’s not that type of prospect. The Yankees, as always, rave about his makeup and work ethic, which is why they were willing to give him an opportunity to stay behind the plate before the back injury.

Video

There is plenty more video on MiLB.com and some on YouTube, but the latter is mostly interviews and high school footage.

2014 Outlook
Bird will start next season at first base and in the middle of the lineup with High-A Tampa. There’s very little question about that. A midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton wouldn’t be a surprise if he mashes again, but the Yankees were patient and left him at the same level all summer this past year. They may decide to do that again in 2014.

My Take
The bar for first base prospects is pretty high and I am a bit skeptical of Bird. He’s patient and has done pretty much nothing but hit since turning pro, but I’m going to cop out and say I want to see him do it at the upper levels before I fully buy in. His margin for error is very small — if his power doesn’t fully develop or his patience turns into passivity, there won’t be any value to extract. Bird is very intriguing and I’m excited to see what he does as a follow up in 2014, but I’d like to see him do it again.

Categories : Prospect Profiles
  • CountryClub

    I’m not going to go search for it, but Callis tweeted in Sept that he is a legit prospect. Not sure what the other national publication guys think.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      He’s absolutely a legit prospect, I don’t think anyone will disagree there. The question is how great of a prospect.

      • D-Lite

        Baseball America would like a few words with you.

      • ropeadope

        If he contributes to the Yankees fortunes to the same extent in which his namesake (Larry) contributed to the Celtics fortunes, I’ll be more than satisfied.

  • Eselquetodolosabe

    Swing comparisons ? Probably the obvious Nick Johnson. I have one from way in left field. I see a faint Ken Griffey-esq silhouette to it. I know, crazy.

    • Eselquetodolosabe

      Ok, upon further review, Wally-world.

    • Kevin W.

      Johnson is a good one. That finish on the swing above reminded me of Teixeira’s follow-through too.

  • hogsmog

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve heard you say the same thing a few times about Bird in particular, regarding “patience vs passivity”. How exactly do you define those? Are you saying that the only reason he’s walking so much is that low-minors pitchers miss the zone or are afraid to challenge him? That he knows he can just sit and wait for a mistake he can drive, and the approach won’t produce as much walks later on?

    I’m kind of confused, because even if that’s the case, Bird isn’t swinging at those pitches, which mean he at least “has discipline”? I feel like any way you slice it, a guy who walks 100 times has to have a good feel for the strikezone and the ability to lay off junk.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Some hitters are too patient, to the point where they let hittable pitches go by. Brett Gardner can run into that problem on occasion.

      • http://rab.com Michael Cutler

        and 2013 Joey Votto. .

      • YankeeGrunt

        Cito Culver has done this a lot. Bird just has very good strike zone discipline.

  • tmoney

    I hope he gets to Trenton next year. I’m a big fan and think he could certainly hit his way to the majors.

  • tmoney

    I think a better comp would be Joey Votto.

    • Laz

      Votto is so good though it is hard to make that comparison for someone that isn’t even an elite prospect. Nothing against him, but it is doubtful if his ceiling is even that high, let alone his likeness.

  • MannyGeee

    I see a little bit of Chris Davis in his swing, IMO. Quick to the ball, the follow through, the smoothness of the swing coming through the ball… maybe I’m making shit up.

    And the oppo-bomb potential fits the narrative as well.

  • Monty

    This sounds like the reason why Yankees farm system is where it is…

    “He was generally considered the type of player who would benefit from three years in college before turning pro. The Yankees felt differently and selected Bird with their fifth round pick, the 179th overall selection.”

    • Caballo Sin Nombre

      It would seem to me that drafting a guy in the fifth round, three years before he would have been a late first round pick, would be symptomatic of an approach that would yield a great farm system.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        This, this, and this.

        • Caballo Sin Nombre

          People are too obsessed with the BA rankings. They are much less meaningful than football rankings. The baseball draft is nowhere near as information-efficient as the football draft. In football, there are maybe 50 college teams that matter, and a large percentage of their games are televised, which means that you can get 95% of the available information from watching less than 40 games per week, and paying attention to the workouts. One human being can do this pretty well, if it his full-time job. So most teams are playing with a very similar information set, and their player evaluations are going to be fairly close. That’s also why a seven round football draft is really good enough. In baseball, you not only have a lot more college teams that have an interesting player or two, but there are hundreds of significant high school teams; and they all play many more games than a college football team. So there is a lot more information to sift throug;, much more than any one team, let alone an individual, can handle. There is going to be a significant variation in the information available to different teams, especially ones with extensive amateur scouting. The “consensus” is not going to be anywhere as meaningful as it is in football, except for the most heavily scouted players. It’s quite possible, even likely, to find value that the BA consensus misses, even as early as the fourth-fifth rounds.

    • Chip

      Yeah, but if he does that and turns into what the Yankees feel he can be, then he probably goes in the top half of the first round.

  • Greg

    The odds on these type of guys is so long – no better than 20% that he ever makes it to the majors at all.

    • YankeeGrunt

      That’s just silly. The Yankees liked him enough to give him a seven figure bonus. He hit 20 HR in his first season of pro ball and he has excellent strike zone discipline. His odds of being an impact player may be that, but not his odds of making it to the majors.

      • David

        Bird is better then Texeira right now, he will for sure be the Yankees starting first baseman in 2016 or earlier. How can somebody say he’s passive aggressive cracks me up. He’s too passive at the plate? He led the entire sally league in obp, and second only to Joey Gallo in obps. The best way to play poker is passive aggresive, play mainly strong hands, but play them very aggressively.. For the season Bird had he was one of the best hitters in the entire minors at any level. Still he gets no prospect love.. BA, didn’t rank him in the top 20 for the sally league top prospect which is a joke. He is clearly a top 5 prospect, and should be a top 5 yankee prospect right now. You can shit can guys like mason williams, dante bichette jr. The top prospects in the Yankees system #1 Greg Bird, #2 Rafael de paula, #3 Gary Sanchez…15 out of Birds 20 hr’s came in the second half, he is only getting better, and he is only going to get bigger. Now if he could only do something with that eyebrow, maybe he would get more prospect ranking love.

    • David

      Well, you are very wrong..If you’ve read up on Bird, I read where the numbers he posted have only been done by a few players age 20 for first base in low A, and 98% of said players made it to the majors. Greg Bird is going to hit 35 home runs next year, and lead the league in ops, rbi’s, walks.. You name it, I have read where some have tried to downplay his power because of some of the short stadiums he has hit his hr’s in.. They don’t tell you the ball was 75 feet over the wall.. Bird will take advantage of the short porch in Yankee stadium, and by the way his fielding percentage at first is very good.

  • Crink

    Think they should go a level at a time with him. Don’t want to see him rushed and still have Tex through ’16. Very high hopes though, this is one guy along with Sanchez that I don’t want to see them trade.

    • Bryan

      I disagree. The list of players who have put up comparable numbers to him were all on the fast track. He will never be a defensive stud. If the bat is legit, let it carry him on ward and upward. And in a timely fashion. In my opinion, he should have made the trek to Tampa in late July or early August. He was well above the talent in the Sally and needed a more challenging atmosphere.

      • YankeeGrunt

        I still think they took it slow with him because it was his first season of pro ball and because he was trying to recover from a back injury. Jake Cave went just one level, probably for the same reason. I’d expect them to be a little more aggressive this year.

  • http://rab.com Michael Cutler

    That was pretty pessimistic Mike . . .but i’d rather have you be skeptical then sucking his wang. . . hope he gets a shot at trenton late next year so i can see him in person ( only way to have an honest assessment, in my opinion).. .good write up Doe. . .

  • Robinson Tilapia

    “I’m going to cop out and say I want to see him do it at the upper levels before I fully buy in.”

    Wish we did that for everyone before feeling disappointed by them, and the system, when they struggle upon reaching those higher levels.

  • PFOJ

    Ay yo, what up, Bird?