Not all the prospects make it, no matter how much we like them and regardless of the evident talent.
There was a point that Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, then 22 years old, filled fans' visions of a new beginning at the position. Bird's sweet swing, seemingly built for Yankee Stadium as well as patience at the plate made it easy to envision him in pinstripes for years to come.
Bird was spectacular over a two-month stretch as Mark Teixeira's replacement when the veteran went down with an injury in 2015. Bird was so good in fact that it seemed as if it would be rather simple for the Yankees to transition from Teixeira when the veteran's contract would come to an end the following season.
Unfortunately, after several lengthy injuries and incredibly uneven performances mixed in between, we are left to wonder if Bird is truly the word for the Yankees at first base.
While the Yankees are well positioned in the playoff hunt, the club is built on right-handed hitting power and Bird's lefty bat should be the complement to that. However, he has struggled mightily since coming back from his latest malady hitting .198 with a .308 on-base percentage and .426 slugging percentage (97 OPS+) in 117 plate appearances. That lack of production after coming off last season's putrid .190/.288/.422 slash line in 170 times to the plate (84 OPS+) is difficult to ignore.
Bird looks completely lost in the batter's box at times, while his ability to take pitches, extend at-bats and draw walks has also gone by the wayside. The Yankees are expecting things from Bird based on evidence no longer surfacing in 2018.
After Monday night's game, Yankees manager Aaron Boone professed that he left Bird in to hit with the bases loaded and one out with a lefty on the mound because he felt Bird had a better chance to show patience and draw a walk in the situation. Boone had the right-hnaded Brandon Drury at his disposal for this situation, but he instead went with Bird, who struck out on three pitches. That display encompasses Bird's inadequacies over the last two seasons.
The larger matter for the Yanks is that they have more immediate concerns with the starting rotation than looking to the trade market for a first baseman, so in that respect, Bird is being provided an exceptionally long leash. Further, the Yankees obviously believe some of the magic from 2015 and the 2017 postseason is inside the player and ready to be unleashed.
I don't see it right now.
At this point, its incumbent upon Boone to find the right spot in the batting order for Bird, and the best situations to place him in as an effort to get him back on track. While the Yankees do not have certainty in the options behind Bird - Drury, Neil Walker and Tyler Austin each have their own issues -- a shift in the mindset, at least in the interim, appears necessary.
If Bird cannot turn things around it could eventually become a detriment for the Yankees in 2018. And even worse for the 25-year-old, it could signal the end of his rope in the Bronx.