Gregory Paul Bird was named the Arizona Fall Instructional League All-Star Game Most Valuable Player. As awards go, it's sort of like winning the Topeka Press Club Award for Best Newcomer in Radio Journalism. But hey, it beats being first-runner-up.
Bird, who last week was named the Evils 4th best prospect in the annual Baseball America beauty pageant, is among the batting leaders in every category in the Arizona toddler league. He's 6'3, was drafted in the 2011 fifth round out of high school, as a catcher, and was the Colorado high school player of the year. The Yankees spent big to keep him from getting a college education. He moved to 1B because of a bad back. In 2013, he led the minor leagues in walks, and suddenly popped up on Yankiverse radar screens.
Last spring, the back flared - yep, a troubling omen - and he missed April. I figured, "Oh, well, they come and they go..." In May, Bird went to Tampa, started slow, and then caught fire. He hit 7 HR in nearly 300 AB with a .277 average, which was steadily rising when they bumped him up to Trenton, Double A. There, he hit 7 HRs in 95 ABs.
It's been a while since the Yankees had a bull goose-loony prospect at 1B. You go back to Nick Johnson. And there are many reasons why Greg Bird is just another flavor of the week. (A bad back tops the list.) But, goddammot, this is November... Day One of the Off-Season, which is the time to dream about how great players might be, rather than think of how disappointing they were last year.
Bird is the guy you can imagine batting 5th for the Yankees in the 2015 post-season.
Come on, folks, step up to the tap and drink the Kool-Aid with me...
Bird has a solid spring training. He hits a home run in an early game, Zolio Almonte-style. He draws some walks, makes a great play at first, gets himself a star in Girardi's clipboard.
He starts at Trenton. His back feels fine. Last year, he hit .256 there. Now, he hits .290 with 15 HRs. On June 10, they move him to Scranton. Usually, that means being stuck with a behind some 29-year-old ex-Brewer. This time, the Yankees are under new management. They put him at cleanup. He rakes. He's hitting .310 by August 1, and we all know what's coming.
The injury to Teixeira, of course.
Wait! What's that? You say we'll have A-Rod backing Tex up at first? Well, how about a tweak to Mister Golden Hips, as well!
Last year, after Teixeira, the Yankees awarded first base to a bunch of converted catchers. At one point - I'm not lying here - they played Carlos Beltran, who hadn't played 1B since high school.
Dream with me. It's mid-August, and the Yankee infield has Greg Bird at first, Rob Refsnyder at second base, Martin Prado at 3B, and somebody - have another hit of Kool-Aid - at SS. It's not perfect, folks. And we're all going to wake up with a hangover.
But it's so much better than what we've seen in 2013 and 2014. Walk toward the light! It might be death. It may be the next world. I don't care. Think about Greg Bird. Think about hope. WALK TOWARD THE LIGHT, EVERYBODY. WALK TOWARD THE LIGHT.