Eric Boland tweeted a video of Bird homering off Masahiro Tanaka:
— Erik Boland (@eboland11) February 21, 2019
And fans went wild with optimism that Bird was back! Not that I want to disagree, it’s just that two days of camp do not a comeback make. Bird has a lot to improve this season, beginning with these numbers: .191/286/.386 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 82 games last season.
He was left off the postseason roster in favor of Luke Voit and Kristie Ackert of NYdailynews.com wrote: “ he has an uphill battle to unseat Voit as the starting first baseman.” Especially since Voit, on the strength of a more than solid stretch run, has the endorsement of General Manager Brian Cashman.
So what can we expect from Bird in ’19? According to River Ave. Blues:
ZiPS has never been all that high on Greg Bird — it projected him for +1.9 WAR total from 2017-18 — and this year it projects him for a .224/.317/.444 (101 OPS+) line and +0.6 WAR in 350 plate appearance.
Bird projects to hit below league average for first basemen which were .253/.333/.438 (112 OPS+) in 2018. Despite a modest ZiPs projection for 2018, .240/.333/.480 with 19 HRs in 372 plate appearances, Bird’s numbers on the year were well below it and as a result, he lost the starting job.
There are high hopes that Bird’s work in the offseason will translate into the sort of spring training that he’s has been known to have – he hit 8 home runs and posted a 1.64 OPS over 51 at-bats in Grapefruit League play in 2017. While Injuries derailed him in 2016 and 2017, in 2018, he appeared to be healthy; however, he could never put it together offensively to be productive and successful in ’18.
Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweeted yesterday that Aaron Boone said that there is “definitely a noticeable difference in Greg Bird’s swing and how he is impacting the ball” this spring. Boone noted to Kristie Ackert of the NYPost that Bird, even while struggling last season, Bird controls the strike zone. He noted that in his first at-bats in Tampa that control was apparent.
There is plenty of buzz around Bird this spring as fans hope to see him rebound from a dismal showing in 2018 and reclaim the first baseman’s job; however, Luke Voit is going to be a huge obstacle in his path to a comeback.
While Bird’s glove has always been solid, his offensive potential has only ever been glimpsed at due to injury and ineffectiveness. Let’s hope Bird makes it a dogfight at first base by getting the bat going this spring and showing off that lefty power stroke.