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Sunday, February 19, 2017

2017 FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: GREG BIRD 1B NEW YORK YANKEES

The decks have been cleared by more than a bit at New York Yankees spring training camp when it came to the much talked about first base competition featuring prospects Greg Bird, Tyler Austin,and recent veteran signing Chris Carter after it was learned on Friday that Austin would be down six weeks with a fractured left foot.  Austin suffered the fracture when fouling a ball of his foot during a batting practice session a few days prior and he was deemed the bigger threat to Bird as the starting first baseman heading into camp.  With Austin now out of the picture and likely slated to start the season in the minors when he does return, that leaves Bird in the firm driver's seat to anchor the position on Opening Day.  Bird himself though is far from a slam dunk and he came into camp having missed the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury that needed surgery.  With that full year of crucial seasoning having been lost, it is imperative that Bird get up to speed quickly or else Carter and his 41 home runs last season will steal the gig.

Now as far as Bird is concerned, a quick trip down memory lane is needed.  It was in 2015 when Bird (originally a 2011 fifth round pick of the team) came p to the Yankees and slammed 11 home runs and drove in 31 batters in just 46 games.  What was readily apparent was Bird's tremendous natural power that brings quick comparisons to an Adam Dunn-type player.  Alas just like Dunn, Bird is quite strikeout-prone as he showed in posting a very high 29.8 K/9 rate in his Yankees debut that showed up in a shoddy .261 average,  In fact if not for a lucky .319 BABIP, Bird's average would have gone even lower.  Considering that Bird doesn't have speed to beat the BABIP curve consistently, count on his strikeouts having more of a negative impact on his average in 2017.  That means Bird needs to close out some of the holes in his swing as he has no stolen base speed to offset an average hit.  On the positive side, Bird's natural pop make him an easy guy to predict 25 home runs and 80 RBI for and those digits are very likely if he gets 500 at-bats.  Yes Carter is likely to play against lefties but Bird should get the majority of time at first base this season.

In terms of my personal opinion on Bird, you all know I shy away from power hitters who strike out as much as Bird does and who put a hurt on your average.  This is who Bird is at least for now and so I won't be buying outside of using him as a backup.  So should you.

2017 PROJECTION:  .259 23 HR 75 RBI 65 R 1 SB  


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