The New York Yankees are in the midst of their rebuilding plan with two of their most important pieces currently in the Arizona Fall League— first baseman Greg Bird and pitching prospect James Kaprielian.
Will Bird be the word in 2017?
After an impressive Major League debut season, Greg Bird entered the 2016 season with high expectations. Batting .261 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI, Bird was set to be Mark Teixeira’s successor. The lefty would continue his development with Triple-A Scranton, and fill-in should Teixeira incur an injury this season. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often go awry.
Bird’s 2016 season would be over before it started, as he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. His absence would be felt all season as the seemingly inevitable injury would strike Teixeira, leaving the Yankees without a true backup first base option for most of the year.
The Yankees first baseman is currently rehabbing in the Arizona Fall League, where he will continue to get repetitions and regain his form.
IF Bird regains the form that made him the first base heir apparent, he is a huge addition that will solidify a Yankees offense that struggled in 2016.
Will Kaprielian get back on the fast track?
Drafted because of his polish, ability and work ethic, James Kaprielian was expected to be on the fast track to the Bronx. Expectations were high coming into the season, as many expected the Yankees’ prized pitching prospect to reach the upper levels of the farm system. Unfortunately, he, like Bird, found 2016 to be a lost season.
Kaprielian was impressive in his first three starts with Class A Advanced Tampa, where he went 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA and had 22 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. That is where the right-hander’s stat line would remain as the team eventually shut him down with a flexor strain in his right elbow.
After a lengthy rehabilitation, the Yankees have sent Kaprielian to the Arizona Fall League to make up for some lost time. Although it’s still early, the team has seen positive results with Kaprielian seemingly picking up where he left off.
Pitchers will always have health questions, especially those that have had a previous elbow injury. IF Kaprielian remains healthy and effective for the 2017 season, a likely starting rotation spot awaits in 2018.
While many will look for Gary Sanchez to continue his impressive 2016 season, don’t discount the importance of Greg Bird in 2017 along with James Kaprielian in 2018 and beyond. A healthy return for both players would put them in a position to be building blocks for the next championship run in the Bronx.