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The New York Yankees’ biggest X-factors heading into 2017

Greg Bird

When you dig for reasons why the Bombers finished 22nd in runs scored a year ago, the lack of production from the first base position would rise as a striking aspect.

In 2015, Mark Teixeira smacked 31 home runs in 111 games and once he went down with a broken leg, Greg Bird stepped in and hit 11 homers in just 46 games.

Overall, Yankees’ first basemen ranked fourth in major league baseball in home runs (47) while their overall WAR (3.3) sat ninth. Last season, however, the position ranked 24th in home runs (23) and ranked third-to-last in overall WAR (-1.4).

That was primarily caused by no Bird, a shell of Teixeira and trying to replace 31 homers with Dustin AckleyChris ParmeleeRob Refsnyder, Ike Davis and eventually Billy Butler.

That’s grinding.

As Bird looks to come back following surgery on a torn right labrum, a strong return would do tremendous things for an offense that missed his presence a year ago.

This past fall, the 24-year old completed 17 games down at the Arizona Fall League and while his numbers weren’t encouraging, getting at-bats while remaining healthy were more vital than any number.

The rusty Bird slashed .215/.346/.364 with only one home run and four doubles. However, his on-base percentage (.346) and walks (12) caused his organization to believe that although his power and swing may be weak due to time off, but his plate discipline has not disappeared.

In the end, it’s quite simple for Bird’s case. If he returns to his rookie-season form, he could be a potent force in a lineup that already features the sensation of Gary Sanchez and the powerful Aaron Judge.

On the flip side, if Bird’s rust lasts 162 games, New York’s probability of success will take a massive downturn — similar to that of 2016.