The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

October checkups recommended no surgery for Bird02.01.16

APTOPIX Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

When Greg Bird returned from his May shoulder issue, he played as if there was nothing wrong. He hit his way out of Double-A, hit his way out of Triple-A, and became one of the Yankees’ most productive big league sluggers down the stretch.

When the season ended, though, Bird’s agent contacted the Yankees to let them know there had been some lingering discomfort. According to general manager Brian Cashman, the Yankees sent Bird for shoulder checkups with both Dr. Chris Ahmad and Dr. David Altchek in October. Both recommended no surgery at the time, just a strengthening and rehab protocol similar to what Bird had done with success in Trenton.

That might have been the end of it, but the problem began to flare up again last month.

“I would say a week ago; some time in the last 10 days,” Cashman said. “Once he started working out further and stronger in Tampa, he felt problems again.”

Bird1In the last week or so, Cashman said, Bird returned to New York to see Yankees’ physician Dr. Ahmad, who at that point recommended surgery. The Yankees wanted a second opinion from Altchek, who was unavailable until this morning. When Altchek agreed with the new analysis, the final decision was made for Bird to have season-ending surgery tomorrow.

Cashman said he’s been told the success rate and recovery rate are very high for this procedure, so all involved are optimistic that Bird will be back to full strength next season.

As for this season, Cashman stressed that Mark Teixeira is still in place as the everyday first baseman, with Dustin Ackley positioned to be the backup. Asked whether the team would go after a guy like Justin Morneau or Pedro Alvarez to add first base depth, Cashman wouldn’t say, but he stressed that Bird was not projected to make the 25-man roster out of spring training.

“I think from that you can extrapolate,” Cashman said.

In other words, as long as Teixeira is in place, the Yankees are not going to sign another first baseman to a Major League deal.

As for next offseason, Cashman said he’s not sure how Bird’s injury might impact decision making heading into the 2017 season. It’s surely a factor, but not a factor that’s in play at the moment.

“I guess we’ll wait until next year or next winter,” Cashman said. “That’s not something I need to confront at the the moment. I know the physicians involved are very optimistic. … Let’s just get him the surgery, get him fixed, get him through the rehab process, and get him going again.”

Associated Press photo

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Greg Bird to miss all season with shoulder injury02.01.16

Yankees Rays Baseball

The Yankees have their first serious injury of the year.

As first reported by Joel Sherman, first base prospect Greg Bird is expected to miss the entire season because of a shoulder issue that requires surgery. The Yankees announced the injury in a short email that reads: Greg Bird will undergo surgery tomorrow to repair a right shoulder labrum tear and will miss the 2016 season. The injury is a reoccurrence of a right shoulder injury sustained in May of 2015.

A few immediate thoughts:

1. In the short term, the Yankees seem covered because Mark Teixeira’s contract runs through the end of this season, but obviously this is a significant blow to their immediate depth at both first base and designated hitter. Even if Bird didn’t have a spot on the Opening Day roster, he seemed ready to play some sort of role as a guy who could fill in if there were an injury, or as a guy who could bounce back and forth to get occasional big league time as part of that 25th-man rotation.

2. Beyond this season, it will be interesting to see how the Yankees treat their first base situation next offseason. Teixeira’s contract expires at the end of this season, and the stars have been nicely aligned for Bird to takeover as a full-time big leaguer in 2017. Will the Yankees show the same faith in Bird when he’s coming off a lost year? Assuming he does miss the entire season — which seems almost certain — can Bird show enough to make the Yankees not go after a short-term stopgap? If Teixeira has a good year, does this increase the possibility of giving him a qualifying offer?

3. One prospect who might be back in the picture is Tyler Austin. In the Arizona Fall League this offseason, Austin was used primarily as a first baseman, and now he stands out as the top upper-level first base prospect in the system (might have been Eric Jagielo, but Jagielo was shipped away in the Aroldis Chapman deal). Austin seemed crowded out of the Triple-A outfield, but he could find new life as replacement first baseman for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. With Kyle Roller released, I’m not sure there’s another in-house standout for that job. If Austin can have a bit of a resurgence — his bat has been very hit or miss in recent years — he could become the short-term No. 2 option at first base.

UPDATE: The Yankees have announced that Bird’s surgery will be performed by Dr. David Altchek at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. His initial shoulder injury came last season when he missed basically a month from from May 8 through June 3 in Double-A. When he returned from the injury, Bird played as if there were no injury at all. In his first month back, he hit .292 to earn a promotion to Triple-A, where he hit .301 with six home runs to earn his first call-up to the big leagues. Everyone is well aware of how well in hit in New York, where he finished tied for the team lead for the most home runs in the final two months of the season.

Associated Press photo

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After breakout year, Bird could be odd man out next season10.07.15

Twins Yankees Baseball

When most of the Yankees’ lineup fell flat in the second half, Greg Bird was an exception. The 22-year-old first baseman showed up in August to play a relatively minor part-time role, then he stepped into the everyday first base job after Mark Teixeira was hurt, and Bird delivered a .261/.343/.529 slash line.

The only Yankee with a higher OPS through at least 100 at-bats was Mark Teixeira.

Bird’s emergence should be a good sign going forward — and it is — but finding an immediate place for him next season is tricky. He was drafted as a catcher, moved to first base in his first full season of pro ball, and there’s no indication the Yankees see him as a viable possibility at third base or an outfield corner.

“If Tex is healthy, and A-Rod is healthy, right now I don’t foresee him playing another position,” Brian Cashman said. “So that would create a problem.”

Hard to believe the Yankees might send one of their best young hitters back to Triple-A, but Bird really is blocked at the two positions he can play.

“From Day One here it’s just been about doing my job, whatever that is,” Bird said. “Whatever my job is next year. I’ll worry about that then.”

Four things to keep in mind:

Greg Bird, Kurt Suzuki1. How long would it take to switch? Even if Bird were to learn a new position, what are the chances he would have it figured out well enough to play at a Major League level out of spring training? Rob Refsnyder began learning a new position three years ago, and the Yankees still were not sold on him defensively until the very end of this season (and he opened this season with a ton of errors in Triple-A). By the time Bird learn to play right field or third base, Teixeira’s contract might be finished (and it’s not like third base and the outfield corners are wide open either).

2. First base and DH depth is a good thing. Certainly there’s little guarantee that Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez will stay healthy and productive throughout next season. Even when they were healthy this year, the Yankees still found ways to use Bird as a backup and occasional starter at each position. Could be that the Yankees can get creative with some sort of Bird, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams and Jose Pirela shuttle to take at-bats in spurts.

3. The guys in front of him can hit. It’s worth remembering that Bird is 22 years old with 34 games of Triple-A experience. It’s not like he has nothing else to learn. And it’s not like he’s giving up his at-bats for two non-factors. Teixeira is a better defender and had a higher OPS and slugging percentage this year. Rodriguez was the team’s top home run hitter and especially good in the first half. Worth having an alternative in place? Of course. Worth completely bailing on those two hitters? Not at all.

4. In one more year, first base is wide open. Teixeira’s contract ends after next season. That means first base will be wide open relatively soon (and as mentioned before, first base might be available sooner than another position. If Bird goes down to Triple-A and crushes the ball, making it clear he’s a better option in the big leagues, the Yankees would surely have an easier time making that swap once Teixeira’s in his final year anyway. Not much to lose there. For now, though, there’s little indication that Teixeira needs a replacement right away. If Teixeira has another standout season next year, the timing for Bird could be perfect.

Associated Press photo


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Pregame notes: “I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it”09.02.15

Greg Bird, Glen Perkins

Even after Brian Cashman said he was against it, Joe Girardi said yesterday that he was still considering the possibility of Alex Rodriguez getting a little bit of time at first base against left-handed starters.

Today, Girardi changed his tune.

“I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it,” Girardi told reporters in Boston.

Against a left-handed starter this afternoon, the Yankees are sticking with left-handed rookie Greg Bird at first base. Red Sox starter Henry Owens has reverse splits this season, so that might have factored into the decision (though Girardi tabbed Dustin Ackley, another left-handed hitter as the backup first baseman).

Aside from a month of reverse splits at the end of 2014, Bird generally put up better numbers against right-handed pitchers in the minors. His numbers against lefties weren’t awful, but he was significantly better against right-handers in both Double-A and Triple-A this season, so there’s reason for the Yankees to want at least some sort of right-handed first base option. Girardi has previously mentioned Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan and Austin Romine as possibilities, but today he’s sticking with Bird.

If the team is unwilling to let Rodriguez play first base for even a game against a lefty, it’s hard to imagine they’ll want him to play first or third during the three-game series at Citi Field later this month.

CC Sabathia• CC Sabathia threw another bullpen this afternoon. Seems he could face hitters relatively soon. Brian Cashman has said the Yankees still see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he’s healthy enough to come off the disabled list.

• Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup against a left-handed starter. It’s not unusual for one of the Yankees regular outfielders to sit against a lefty, but Ellsbury has been dealing with a hip issue, and Girardi acknowledged that there’s still some swelling. Girardi called this a healthy day off for Ellsbury, but there could be some desire to give him back-to-back days off with the scheduled off day tomorrow.

• Stephen Drew has six hits and six RBI in his past eight at-bats. With Owens having reverse splits anyway, the Yankees are sticking with Drew at second base for today’s game.

• Speaking of second base, Girardi said he’s not sure when Rob Refsnyder will play. Refsnyder was called up yesterday, but the Yankees have been using Brendan Ryan as their platoon second baseman, they’re clearly committed to Drew against right-handers, and they also have Jose Pirela as an additional right-handed second base option (plus Ackley as yet another second base option). A lot of possibilities at that position going forward.

• The Mariners announced today that they’d optioned Jesus Montero back to Triple-A. Even with expanded rosters. Ouch.

• Two days after the Yankees left Atlanta, the Braves’ box score from yesterday included some familiar names. Manny Banuelos started the game (six hits in 2.2 innings for the loss) and Danny Burawa finished it with two hitless innings and four strikeouts. Banuelos was traded to the Braves this offseason and Burawa was claimed by the Braves off waivers mid-season. Speaking of familiar names in new places: Nick Noonan, who opened this season as the everyday shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was one of the Giants’ September call-ups. He signed with San Francisco after being released by the Yankees this summer.

• The Yankees have won five consecutive series at Fenway Park since the start of 2014, going 12-5 in that span. They?last won six or more consecutive series at Fenway from September 21, 1956 to June 1, 1958. With a win today, the Yankees will have six straight series wins in Boston.

Associated Press photos

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Bird on Severino: “It’s the same; it’s the same guy that I’ve seen”08.29.15

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

For most of us outside observers, Luis Severino’s first four Major League starts have been something new. They’ve been highly anticipated, and they’ve largely lived up to the hype, but they’ve also been our first extended look at the Yankees’ top pitching prospect.

Before he arrived, Severino was a name often heard but rarely seen. His minor league statistics spoke for themselves, but relatively few of us had actually seen Severino pitch very much until he was called up to the big leagues earlier this month. Scouting reports gave a sense of expectation, but seeing that fastball first-hand was a relatively new experience.

Luis SeverinoNew for a lot of people, but not for Greg Bird.

Bird homered in a game two years ago when Severino struck out nine and walked none in a start for Low-A Charleston. When Severino went six hitless innings in his second High-A start of 2014, Bird had three hits in the game. When Severino opened this season with one hit, no walks and eight strikeouts in Double-A, Bird went deep in the sixth inning. Bird also homered when Severino struck out 10 in his final Triple-A start before his promotion.

Called up on August 13, Bird has been on the big league roster for Severino’s past two starts. He had a hit when Severino got his first Major League win last Saturday, and he’ll be either in the lineup or on the bench when Severino makes his fifth start tonight in Atlanta.

“I think he’s just a competitor,” Bird said. “It’s the same. It’s the same guy that I’ve seen. Obviously he’s developed too, but I think just the type of competitor that he is (stands out).”

While many of the veteran Yankees have raved about Severino’s poise and confidence, Bird kind of shrugs when talking about it. It’s not that he doesn’t see it or that he’s not impressed by it, it’s just that Bird’s seen that demeanor for a few years now. He’s used to it, and he said it hasn’t changed at this level.

“I think that’s what makes him successful is he goes out every day and puts in the work, does the same things whether it’s here or at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, down to Low-A,” Bird said. “You know what you’re going to get. He’s developed, but I think that mindset of, I just go out and do my job and kind of let the rest take care of itself, is what’s making him successful.”

It’s one thing to be confident as a fast-rising minor leaguer. It’s another thing to be confident as a 21-year-old first-time big leaguer (or a 22-year-old first-time big leaguer, in Bird’s case). Both Bird and Severino, though, have carried a sense of belonging into the Yankees’ clubhouse. They’ve looked comfortable and familiar, even as many of us are getting our first good looks at them.

“I think that’s something that’s always been harped on us (in the minors),” Bird said. “Keep doing what you’re doing, you know? It’s got you (this far). If you’re doing the right things, just keep doing what you’re doing. Trust it. Don’t change. That’s kind of what I always heard, and especially as I started getting closer. It’s like, if you get there, don’t change. Keep doing that you’re doing. That’s been my goal. And I think that’s (Severino’s) mentality too.”

Associated Press photos

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Bird: “I’ve got to be ready every day, and that’s proof of it”08.18.15

Greg Bird, Glen Perkins

By the time he came to the plate in the 10th inning, Greg Bird had already scored a run and drawn a walk. He’d gotten his first big league hit two days earlier, he’d made his big league debut two days before that, and he was already four innings into his first game at Yankee Stadium.

But that last at-bat was something different. Tied game. In extra innings. Against left-handed closer Glen Perkins. This was a different sort of high-pressure situation. It wasn’t his first at-bat, but it was surely his biggest.

“I felt pretty good; I felt comfortable when I got up there,” Bird said. “… I’m just trying to help this team win. I’m trying to have a good, quality at-bat there. Looking for something to hit, and just kind of let the rest take care of itself. Not trying to do anything special, just help these guys win games.”

Bird pounced on the first pitch and drove it to center field for a double. That’s what set the stage for a long, all-hands-on-deck win last night.

Greg Bird, Kurt SuzukiAnd it didn’t go unnoticed in the Yankees’ clubhouse.

“Greg Bird, to come into that situation, he’s had great at-bats since he’s been here,” Chase Headley said. “We know his reputation. We’ve seen him in Spring Training, and we know he can hit. That’s a big situation, and he comes up with a big double off a tough left-handed pitcher. Great. And then Mac came through with another big swing. Fortunate that we were able to get that one. That would have been a tough one to lose.”

At the trade deadline, it seemed easy to get behind the idea of Luis Severino and Aaron Judge being untouchable prospects. Severino, it turns out, was on the verge of a call-up (and he’s been terrific through three big league starts). Judge remains one of the top hitting prospects in baseball, and he could be a Carlos Beltran injury away from playing right field regularly as early as next season.

Bird, though, doesn’t seem to fire up the imagination quite the way Severino and Judge do. He might not have the absurdly high risk-reward ceiling of a kid like Jorge Mateo, either. The past two years, though, Bird has moved quickly and clearly made a strong impression throughout the organization. He’s gotten past a couple of minor injuries, responded incredibly well to late-season promotions, and improved defensively at first base.

There’s a quiet quality to him, and perhaps that’s what makes him less buzzworthy, while also preparing him for last night’s big at-bat.

“My mindset every day is just to prepare like I’m going to play,” Bird said. “And if I do, great. If I don’t, then learn something. I’ve got to be ready every day, and that’s proof of it.”

In the short term, Bird’s problem is that he’s blocked by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez (which actually hasn’t been a problem most of the year because those two have been incredibly productive). But Teixeira’s contract expires at the end of next season, and much like Judge in right field, Bird really could be a long-term solution at first base. In the short-term, he’s become a strong alternative as Rodriguez and Teixeira perhaps have worn down a little bit late in the season.

It’s perfectly reasonable that Bird wouldn’t be as highly touted as Judge or Severino, but this three-game sample size has perhaps better explained why the Yankees were similarly reluctant to trade him.

“We’ve all been impressed by Birdy,” Teixeira said. “He’s got a really good swing and doesn’t seem to let anything bother him. We got to see him a lot in Spring Training this year, so hopefully we’re going to see more good things.”

Associated Press photo


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Greg Bird called up from Triple-A (but how often will he play?)08.13.15

Greg BirdLast week it was Luis Severino. Now it’s Greg Bird.

A source has confirmed a report from Jack Curry that the Yankees’ top first base prospect has been called up to essentially fill the spot vacated by Garrett Jones. Bird gives the Yankees a true backup first baseman and — just guessing — I would think he could start in place of Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez as early as tonight.

Although he got off to a bit of a slow start in Double-A, when Bird got on a roll he was quickly promoted to Triple-A and was hitting .301/.353/.500 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In Baseball America’s “best tools” survey of league managers and coaches, Bird was picked as the best defensive first baseman in the Eastern League (though he’s generally considered more of an offense-first player). He was just named the Player of the Week in the International League.

At 22 years old, Bird is among the biggest names in the Yankees’ system, and was one of the guys Brian Cashman labeled “untouchable” at the trade deadline. His role, though, seems limited at the moment.

We saw first-hand just how few at-bats Jones was given (and that was with Jones able to play right field, which Bird can’t do).

Maybe the Yankees are fine with Bird sitting most days, or perhaps they want to rest Teixeira and Rodriguez a little more often this late in the season. Both have struggled lately, and the Yankees might want to be proactive in making sure each one gets a few more days off down the stretch. Teixeira wore down last season, and Rodriguez sat out more than a year, so it might make sense to try to keep their legs a little fresher at this point.

Joe Girardi, of course, denied being worried about fatigue affecting either one.

“Everyone in the game is fatigued at this point somewhat,” Girardi said. “That’s just the nature of the game. But think about the last ball Alex hit (on Tuesday). Does that look like a guy that’s tired? Think about the balls Tex hit (on Tuesday). Does that look like a guy that’s tired? I think sometimes we can overthink it.”

One possibility — and this is strictly my own speculation, definitely a risk of overthinking it — would be that Bird is up for only a few days to rest Teixeira and Rodriguez during this long stretch of games. He could give each of them a day off then return to Triple-A until September, replaced on the big league roster by someone like Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela who might see more playing time as a second base option.

Without overthinking it, Bird was hitting very well in Triple-A, had to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter anyway — so his spot on the 40-man roster was inevitable — and the Yankees just lost a left-handed backup first baseman, meaning Bird fits the hole. He’s one of the best hitters in the system, and he’s coming to the big leagues.

Associated Press photo


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Steinbrenner: “I didn’t want to give those kids up”08.13.15

Luis Severino

Speaking to reporters at the Owners’ Meetings in Chicago on Wednesday, Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said the decision to hold onto top prospects at the trade deadline was his own preference. He simply was not willing to give them up for a short-term rental.

“I just wasn’t going to do it,” Steinbrenner said, according to ESPN New York. “I don’t think we kind of had the glaring need that you would address by giving up one of your Triple-A prospects, especially not for a loaner. For a guy you’re going to have three months or so. It’s just not something we were going to consider.”

While it’s widely reported the Yankees were willing to give their top lower-level prospect, Jorge Mateo, in a possible deal for Craig Kimbrel, general manager Brian Cashman has acknowledged that starting pitcher Luis Severino, right fielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird — all three of whom were in Triple-A at the trade deadline — were untouchable.

The Yankees did part with relatively redundant upper-level prospect Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez, but they ultimately did not trade other valuable Triple-A prospects including Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott and Nick Goody. Young and emerging big leaguers Bryan Mitchell, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren and John Ryan Murphy also stayed put.

“I didn’t want to give those kids up,” Steinbrenner said. “We’ve been looking at them for two, three years now. They’ve progressed perfectly. And they’re all sitting there in Scranton. Any one of them could contribute now if need be, and we’ve already seen that on Severino the last two starts.”

According to Ken Davidoff at the New York Post, Steinbrenner also mentioned future payroll as a factor in the team’s deadline decisions.

“I have always felt, still feel, that you don’t have to be in that position [the top spender] to win world championships,” he said. “Now that we’ve got all this young talent that’s very close, some of whom are here, I think it’s going to make it easier to do things with the payroll in years to come.”

Associated Press photo

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Triple-A standout Greg Bird named Player of the Week08.10.15

Didn’t have a real standout first month in Double-A, then he wound up on the disabled list, and so the season was off to a rocky start for Greg Bird. But it’s taken off at this point. Promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in early July, Bird’s Triple-A slash line is up to .295/.353/.516, and he obviously just had a great week. Bird was just named the International League’s Player of the Week. Here are the details from the league:

BirdScranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Greg Bird hit .348 over the past week, with five of his eight hits going for extra bases, while pacing the International League with 10 RBI and a .783 slugging percentage. His most productive game came Wednesday night in Columbus, when Bird turned in his third career multi-homer effort and added his first triple of the season in a 7-2 RailRiders rout of the Clippers. Bird collected RBI in five of his six games played this week, including Sunday when he drove in three runs in a 9-1 win at Toledo. Since his promotion to the RailRiders from Double-A in early July, Bird is among the top ten in the IL in extra-base hits, home runs, RBI, and slugging.

22-year-old Greg Bird is in his fifth season as a professional player after being selected by the Yankees in the 5th round of the 2011 draft. This is his first season playing above the Double?A level. Before his promotion, Bird was hitting .258 with six home runs and 29 RBI for Double-A Trenton. Bird is a native of Aurora, Colorado.


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One year after Lindgren, Yankees looking to capitalize on high draft pick06.08.15

Royals Yankees Baseball

On the day he was drafted, Yankees reliever Jacob Lindgren was home in Mississippi. His girlfriend got into town that morning, and so he showed her around. A family friend invited some people over, and so there was barbecuing and swimming.

“It was nice and hot out,” Lindgren said.

It was June 5 of last year, and Lindgren knew he might be a high-round pick. When his name was called, he was the top selection of a Yankees team that hadn’t had much success with top picks. He was a college reliever built to move quickly, joining an organization notorious for advancing even its top prospects slowly.

Less than a year later, Lindgren was in the big leagues, tangible evidence that this might be a new era for the Yankees on draft day.

“A lot of guys that got drafted behind you, they’re like, oh, why did this guy get drafted ahead of me? Stuff like that,” Lindgren said. “There’s always that. Obviously you’ve just got to play good and show them why they drafted you high.”

The Yankees, too, have something to prove.

Aaron JudgeAfter two decades of far more failure than success, the Yankees enter tonight’s first round of the draft with the 16th overall selection, their highest pick since 1993. They have three of the top 57 selections, and they have something of a hot streak going. Focused heavily on college players like Lindgren, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo, the Yankees early picks the past two years have advanced quickly and shown significant promise.

Lindgren is already in the major league bullpen, Judge is considered the top hitting prospect in the system, and Jagielo has nine home runs in Double-A. Both Judge and Jagielo could be in Triple-A by the end of the summer, just two years after being drafted.

“I always heard (the Yankees) were slow moving their guys,” Lindgren said. “But I was going to do everything in my ability to make things happen.”

Lindgren pitched at four levels with 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings the year he was drafted. He pitched well in big league camp this spring, opened the season in Triple-A, and was called up on May 24, the first Yankees prospect since Deion Sanders in 1989 to reach the majors less than a year after being drafted.

It was a significant step for the Yankees, not only because they were willing to make the move, but because they had a top pick playing well enough to deserve the promotion.

Phil HughesWith a few exceptions — Phil Hughes in 2004, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 — the Yankees’ top picks have mostly fallen flat since the overwhelming success of Derek Jeter taken sixth overall in 1992.

The Yankees took a high schooler named C.J. Henry during the otherwise talent-rich first round of 2005. They took a shot on injured basketball player Andrew Brackman with their top pick of 2007. They took a signability risk with Gerrit Cole in 2008. They gambled on high school shortstop Cito Culver in 2010 and have watched him hit well below .200 this season. In the decade before that, they picked forgotten names like Shea Morenz, David Walling and David Parrish.

What draft success the Yankees have had in recent years has been largely confined to the middle rounds: Brett Gardner in the third round of 2005; Adam Warren in the fourth round of 2009; Dellin Betances in the eighth round of 2006, the same year they got former closer David Robertson as a 17th-round steal.

Draft classes, though, tend to be defined by their top picks, and so Lindgren stands out as a success story, both for the player and the organization.

He had been a 12th-round pick of the Cubs out of high school, but Lindgren said Chicago didn’t offer him the signing bonus he wanted until the day before classes started at Mississippi State. Lindgren was already moved in, living on campus and ready to start college. He decided to stay and take his chances that pro ball would be waiting for him.

Jacob Lindgren“Early on, especially when you’re not getting the playing time you wanted, you’re like, man, what am I doing here?” Lindgren said. “But it worked out. It kind of taught me how you have to compete for any job you want. … There was a lot of hype and stuff (as a first-round pick), but I knew I had to come in and prove myself. I always tried to prove that I didn’t belong at each level and just tried to move up as fast as possible.”

It’s hard to move much faster than Lindgren has. He made his big league debut in the same year as the Yankees 2009 first-round pick, Slade Heathcott, whose development had been slowed by a series of injuries (he’s back on the disabled list now). The Yankees, though, seem to believe the arrival of Lindgren and Heathcott – plus the development of Judge, Jagielo, and former fifth rounders Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird – are a sign that the team’s draft futility is turning around. They’ve especially struggled to find impact hitters, and suddenly the upper levels are crawling with both high-probability and high-ceiling bats.

“We do have an evolving system with some high-end position players,” general manager Brian Cashman said.

Tonight, the Yankees look to add to that stable of talent, trying to build off the recent success of their past two drafts, and trying to find someone capable of following Lindgren’s path to the big leagues.

“They probably just draft whoever’s the best available,” Lindgren said. “They’re just trying to bring good talent into the organization.”

Associated Press photos

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