Lou Gehrig, Don Mattingly and Mark Teixeira. The New York Yankees‘ first base position has been filled by some of the most legendary players in history, and the next one could be on the way. His name is Greg Bird, and Yankees management has good reason to be fired up about him.
Bird will likely begin 2014 with the High-A Tampa Yankees after a successful 2013 campaign with the Yankees’ Low-A affiliate, the Charleston RiverDogs. The 21-year-old hit .288 with 20 home runs and 84 RBI while in Charleston. However, the most impressive part of Bird’s approach at the plate is his patience. The 107 walks Bird recorded were the most in the minors in 2013.
He had only 25 more strikeouts than walks and was able to post a .328 average on the road. Another bit of inspiring data on Bird: he’s a left-handed batter. All of this has Yankee scouts drooling at the idea of Bird hitting bombs over the right field fence for years to come, but the arrival of this young multi-tool player could be hampered for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Bird already has a history of injury problems. A back injury is the reason he is a first baseman. After being signed by the Yankees, the natural catcher was moved to first by the organization and has been an average fielder since. The Yankees’ minor league staff and his teammates have commended Bird for his tireless effort to master his new spot in the infield, but he is still learning one of the trickiest infield positions. Bird’s bat has always been the strongest part of his game, but he will undoubtedly need a lot more time in the farm in order to become a major league caliber first baseman.
The second factor that could delay his emergence to the Bronx is his age. The Yankees have been known to mishandle prospects in recent years, and Bird’s future is completely unknown. Bird will first need to produce in Tampa this year and get himself promoted through the system over the next couple of years. And with Teixeira locked up through the 2016 season, Bird has his work cut out for him.
Bird was ranked as the No. 7 first baseman prospect by MLB.com, and he is one of the Yankees’ top 10 prospects. I believe this season will be indicative of whether the Yankees truly have the next great first baseman in their farm.