Yankees state of the system: First Base

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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Greg Bird can be terrific when healthy. But can the Yankees realistically expect a full season from him in 2018?

The 2017 season was a puzzling one for Yankees first baseman for Greg Bird.

After missing the entirety of 2016, he came into camp healthy. And for a minute, he looked like the best hitter on the planet.

In 23 Spring Training games, Bird batted .451 with a team-high eight home runs and more walks than strikeouts. While Aaron Judge and Luis Severino battled for roster spots, Bird had the starting first base job sewn up immediately.

But the moment the season started, Bird’s bat vanished. Like, completely went away.

As good as he was in Spring Training, that’s how as bad he was during April. In 19 games, Bird batted 6-for-60. Mercifully, the team placed him on the DL in early May with what was supposed to be a minor leg injury. Supposedly, he fouled a ball off his leg in spring, which begat a bone bruise that sapped his productivity.

What was supposed to be a short recovery turned into a prolonged affair. As reported by ESPN’s Andrew Marchand, Bird underwent surgery in July to remove a bone in his foot (???). Many (myself included) assumed his season was over. Realistically, Bird was looking at two lost years, jeopardizing his future with the Yankees.

But miraculously, Bird was back on the field six weeks later. He made his triumphant return on August 26th and posted a robust .253/.316/.575 slash line the rest of the way. He popped eight home runs and re-established himself as a legitimate major league starter.

In October, Bird was even better. Rising to the occasion, he batted .250/.421/.500. His seventh-inning home run off of Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the ALDS was arguably the team’s biggest and most clutch hit of the year.

It’s hard to know what to make of Bird, though. He’s only 25-years-old. For the most part, he’s been a terrific player when healthy. He’s both powerful and disciplined at the plate, and his left-handed swing plays perfectly in Yankee Stadium.

Bird is an All-Star level talent. He has the potential to be one of the best-hitting first basemen in the game. He’s a good fielder, although he’s not quite as apt as Mark Teixeira was. And although he’s the slowest player in the Yankees’ lineup, he can make up for it with a sweet power stroke that could easily net him 35-40 home runs a year in the Bronx.