Hoping to return at full force from shoulder surgery, New York Yankees’ first baseman Greg Bird is feeling better than ever.
If the New York Yankees missed one thing the most in 2016, it was the stellar production the “Bird Man of New York” provided them in 2015.
In his first cup of coffee, Greg Bird slashed .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs in 46 games — a total of 38 when proportioned to a full season.
Bird’s 31 RBI’s were additionally the second-most by a member of the Yankees who played in less than 50 games throughout his rookie campaign.
All was optimistic as he was primed to carry that very same output into his sophomore season. That is until he opted to operate on a torn right labrum that would keep him sidelined for a full season.
“I think it was really kind of an overtime thing,” Bird said in a video on the team’s Facebook account. “I took time off in the offseason and tried rehab and it just didn’t do anything for it. It was almost in a worse place than it was before that. We had to make the decision to have surgery, and now looking back on it, it was the right decision for sure because I feel a lot better, I’m confident in it again and I’m right where I want to be.”
This past fall, Bird completed his time down in the Arizona Fall League and although his numbers wouldn’t support “midseason form,” getting at-bats while remaining healthy was more meaningful than any number could display.
In 17 games, the rusty Bird slashed .215/.346/.364 with only one home run and four doubles.
However, his on-base percentage (.346) and walks (12) reassured his organization that although his power and swing may be dull due to a recent recovery from surgery, his plate discipline had not disappeared.
While one could expect Bird to come back and not miss a beat in order to stabilize the lineup that already features Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, one’s expectations should tamper as it’s not all about success at this moment.
Fangraphs’ Steamer predicted the 24-year old to slash .264/.346/.489 with 24 home runs in 122 games last year. If Bird can actually play 150 this season, his projected home run total would rise to 30.
That’s fine and dandy, but don’t keep that written in stone as your ultimate projection. The key at this moment in time is that Bird stays healthy throughout the remainder of the offseason and spring training.
Judging by his contemporary optimism, too much dependence on results to justify progress shouldn’t be a problem.
“Here it’s a little less about (results) and more about development,” Bird also said in the video posted by the Yankees. “And for me about health and just getting my playing time and my at-bats and getting used to the everyday thing again, but at the same time not killing myself and getting ready for a full offseason to come back strong and ready to go for spring.”
If that health comes, it’s highly probable that the kid will help raise the bar from the team’s -1.4 WAR (28th in MLB) from the first base position last year.
Furthermore, he’d accompany a prolonged list of prominent Yankees’ first baseman that had helped the organization rank fourth in OPS from the position since Don Mattingly’s first season in 1984.