Scouting Yankees Prospect #16: Greg Bird

Bird could really start to move fast soon

The Yankees selected catcher Greg Bird in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Grandview High School in Colorado. Signed for over $1 million because of his great hitting potential, nagging back issues plagued most of his first full season in 2012 until he was switched over to first base late in the season and from there the bat began to take off.

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

When he was healthy enough to play in 2012, the left-handed slugger hit a combined .337 with a .944 OPS between rookie level Gulf Coast League and short-season Staten Island Yankees.

"It was a good year," Bird said. "It was very frustrating at times not being able to play but sometimes you have to struggle to learn and to succeed so it was kind of a good lesson.

"It taught me to take care of my body so that I can play and perform on the field so in that aspect it was good. When I finally made it out there [to the field] and then going to Staten Island, that was just awesome. I had a blast up there. Overall it was a successful year."

Even when he was drafted as an offensive-minded catcher, the speculation even back then was there was a good chance he would eventually move to first base because of his high offensive ceiling.

Though the Yankees and Bird probably did not envision the shift occurring in just his first full season, nagging back issues accelerated such a move.

"I think it was just a mix of wearing my body down and just weakness," he said. "When your muscles fail and your legs fail it just goes after your joints, your ligaments, your tendons, and all of that.

"I think I just wore myself down to a point where I couldn't keep up with what I was doing and then my back kind of locked up as a result. Now it's just a matter of staying strong in the weight room and in the core, and doing all of my exercises. I think playing first base will take some of the stress off also."

Lost on those outside of baseball is just how rigorous the demands are for minor league catchers. It's not as simple as just catching the games. They literally spend hours before every game catching bullpens, working on their blocking, and things of that nature.

No longer having to crouch on his knees several hours per day, the move to first base has allowed Bird to stay fresh longer and that has helped build confidence with his offensive game.

"It's very high," Bird said. "It was never a matter of not liking catching because I love to catch. I love the aspect of being in every play and on the strategy side of catching. Now it's different just knowing that I can go out and perform to the best of my abilities offensively because I have more strength and energy.

"It's nice to be able to go out, get my work in, to be able to do all of that and not be exhausted. I get more out of it I feel like and I'm able to perform at a higher level."

He certainly did perform at a higher level once he switched positions too. He went on to hit an even .400 with six extra-base hits in eleven games for the Staten Island Yankees and turned it on even more during Instructional League play this offseason.

"You want to talk about somebody who can hit, that kid is going to hit! He's a great kid," Staten Island manager Justin Pope said. "He did a fantastic job transforming to first base because he was a catcher.

"He's another student of the game; loves to watch the game, loves to pick your brain, he remembers what pitchers do to him, and he loves to play everyday.

"I remember one at-bat [during Instructs] he was facing Jose Ramirez who was throwing 95-97 mph with a really good slider. Ramirez gets him 0-2 with slider, slider, then he comes inside with a 97 mph fastball and Bird just turns on it for a base hit to right field. Not too many people can do that."

Just like Mason Williams and Tyler Austin did finding success in Staten Island before breaking out nationally the following year, those inside the Yankees organization feel Bird is the next in line.

"I don't like to think about any of that," Bird said. "I just like to go out there, do my thing, have fun, enjoy it, and after that it's all in everyone else's hands. I try not to think about results. I think about the work, getting good quality reps, and the results kind of come from there.

"I'm just excited to get out there and play a full season, play in stadiums, go to all the different towns, and do that whole deal. I'm chomping at the bit to get out there and play.

"To play baseball everyday, I just enjoy it. If you enjoy it the rest falls into place I feel like. You have to have that want to do well and to enjoy the game."

He enjoys the game more than most and it shows in his play, especially after getting his feet wet at the professional level and then finding a new comfort level after making the position switch.

"It all adds up when you get comfortable. It's also an after the first year thing -- once you get used to the system, used to how everything runs, then you can put that stuff aside and worry about getting after it on the baseball side. It's just a comfort thing.

"Pro ball is different and it takes getting used to it, there's no doubt about it. I just think getting comfortable with the whole system and how everything works and then being healthy, I was able to go out there and perform at a higher level," he concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

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 has the basics of a strong foundation already in place to be an impact offensive player; great patience at the plate, above average pitch recognition, plus bat speed, a short compact stroke, and an ability to use the whole field. What brings it all together too is his extremely calm demeanor in the batter's box. He approaches every at-bat as if it were batting practice and because of that he is a very good clutch hitter. Throw in above average power potential from the middle to opposite field and plus power potential to the pull side, there really isn't a weakness in his bat.

Base Running and Speed. As most catchers or first baseman types can attest to, Bird has no real speed that would make him an impact in the running game. He is a station to station runner all the way.

Defense. Despite his lack of experience at first base, Bird shows some real abilities around the bag. He is good at making the short-hop scoops and despite not being fast he does have solid range. A very cerebral player overall, he is adept at making the little tweaks in his game to improve and that should allow him to be an above average defensive first baseman long-term.

Projection. With an amazingly quick bat of a short compact stroke, an advanced patient approach at the plate, and overall plus power potential, Bird had always projected to be and still has the ceiling of a future heart of the order type big league hitter. Even changing positions has not changed that and if anything the extra wear and tear on his body that he would have had to endure while catching through the years is no longer an issue, making the likelihood of Bird reaching his ceiling as a hitter even better. It should not be long before he is considered one of the top prospects in the organization.

ETA. 2015. Bird is ready for low-A Charleston to start the 2013 season and with little to no weaknesses in his offensive game he should begin to move a bit quickly at some point. A late season call-up to high-A Tampa later in the year is likely.

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