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Greg Bird Rankings Debate - Comparing RotoBaller's Rankers

As we move closer and closer to the start of the regular season, our writers are still vigorously debating each other's preseason rankings.

In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

Today, the subject of discussion is Yankees first baseman Greg Bird. Nick Mariano loves the profile, the park, and the lineup, while Kyle Bishop has serious concerns about Bird's durability and batting average downside. Is Bird truly the word? Read on, and decide for yourself.

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2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Greg Bird

Ranking Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
132 9 Greg Bird 1B 175  108 136 146 142 111


Nick Mariano's Ranking: #108 overall

Oh, Kyle. I thought you studied Bird Law? According to Erik Boland of Newsday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone sees Bird as an “impact middle of the order hitter." I realize the ankle-that-would-not-heal malady of 2017 really sucked the wind out of his sails, but once healthy, he posted a sturdy .253/.316/.575 slash line with eight homers and 25 RBI in 98 plate appearances down the stretch.

This came despite a horrid .230 BABIP that may not rise much due to defenses shifting into his ridiculous pull-happy nature, but Yankee Stadium was crafted for lefty swingers to beat any shift that isn’t legally allowed to place defenders in the stands. Now, I’m not expecting him essentially hit eight dingers a month and totally replicate the power or else I’d have his 40-plus homer butt well inside my top-100, so we’re not just blindly extrapolating the pop.

But we’re not ignoring it, either. Bird has shown a history of pulling the ball in the air throughout his professional career. He put up a fly-ball rate north of 55 percent between High- and Double-A in 2014 with a combined pull rate of nearly 50 percent. 2015 saw fly-ball rates around 45-50 percent and pull rates between 38-44 percent at Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors.

He was born to hit in Yankee Stadium, let alone in an era where the “fly-ball revolution” is being rewarded beyond comprehension. With ground-ball rates hovering a little north of 30 percent, I’m not going to weigh him down for the shift defense as much as I do for others. And I know he hits righties better, but that momentous homer off of Andrew Miller in the ALDS and hitting 5 HRs with a .257 average in 70 ABs vs. LHP during the regular season showed promise. The overall .938 OPS in 41 postseason ABs was lovely to see as well.

Is this about the injuries then? I know the torn labrum in ‘16 was awful and the ankle injury that ruined his ‘17 is worrisome, but right outside of my top-100 is where I’m happy to introduce some risk for upside. He also has a career 10.9% walk rate in 348 plate appearances, so he’ll get on base enough to get his counting stats up beyond his own homers. As of March 12, Fangraphs projects the 2018 Yankees to score 5.3 runs per game -- tied with the Astros for the best in the bigs. Hitting in the middle of this lineup all year practically provides one with a free voucher for 180 R+RBI. Starlin Castro had 129 in just 112 games last year. Didi Gregorius had 160 in 136 games.

And with Giancarlo Stanton in town, you can truly utilize “Stanton Like My Daddy” puns with Birdman on your roster. That’s why we draft guys, right?


Kyle's Ranking: #175 overall

Nick, you and I both know that bird law in this country - it’s not governed by reason. As such, I’m afraid I can’t take your advice into cooperation...Filibuster.

But seriously folks, nobody questions Bird’s pop. He’s gone deep 20 times in just 348 MLB plate appearances and posted an 18.4 HR/FB% after producing similar rates in the minor leagues. Projections all have him around 30 homers over a full season. Trouble is, yes, injuries. Bird hasn’t yet shown that he can stay healthy and productive for a full slate of games. This isn’t new, either - it’s always been a problem since he became a pro. Bird has only managed to eclipse 550 PA once, and that was way back in 2013 at A-ball. Nick would have you draft him as though this hardly mattered. Why take Bird just outside the top 100 when you can land the similarly-projected and super-durable Carlos Santana almost 70 picks later? You’re paying a premium for a buzzy player who carries fairly significant downside risk given his injury history and limited track record. That dog won't hunt, monsignor.

Bird’s profile certainly meshes well with Yankee Stadium, but his pull-happy, >60% airball approach and lack of foot speed means you’re almost definitely looking at a .250 average as the best case scenario. And for all the rosy thoughts about Bird potentially hitting cleanup in that fearsome Bombers lineup, any sort of extended slump - the kind that low-contact sluggers like Bird are particularly prone to - will see him bumped down in the order just like last season.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just regress, because I feel I’ve made myself perfectly redundant.


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