Greg Bird has been terrible this season. Neither the Yankees nor I am ready to give up on Greg Bird, but at this point no one would be shocked to see him optioned to Triple-A at some point in May. If that happens, the Yankees are in a bit of a pickle. Tyler Austin is still not close to rehab games, and will require essentially a full Spring Training before being ready. Chris Carter has been almost as bad as Greg Bird. I've seen creative solutions on Twitter like using Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez or Ronald Torreyes until Austin is ready, or calling up Ji-Man Choi. I'd like to throw out another creative solution: Mike Ford.
Who is Mike Ford? Exactly. Ford has been a deep semi-prospect in the Yankee system since 2013. He spent most of 2016 at Double-A, hitting .280/.417/.455, 13%/19% K/BB (you read that correctly), 144 wRC+. He's started off the 2017 season, also at Double-A, hitting .316/.395/.500, 21%/12% K/BB, 152 wRC+.
The Yankees should consider calling up Ford and giving him a shot if they are indeed ready to demote Greg Bird. Why? Two reasons: there's a better chance he's the best MLB first baseman right now, and they have nothing to lose.
How Good is Mike Ford?
Ford's impressive lines at Double-A actually understate the quality of his performance. Mike Ford is a left-handed hitter playing in one of the run environments for left-handed hitters in the minor leagues. Trenton has a 75 park factor on home runs for lefties, meaning that it is 25% harder to hit a home run in Trenton than a neutral ballpark. The Eastern League is itself a pitcher's league, exacerbating the difference. Trenton is hitting .240/.318/.350 as a team this season, scoring the fourth-most runs in the league. Ford is one of the league's best hitters.
In Yankee Stadium, Ford's left-handed swing will play the opposite way. The juiced ball will also help his contact-oriented swing more than the average player.
One more data point: Steamer projected him to hit .252/.328/.416 in the major leagues before the season. The Yankees would kill for that out of first base this season.
They Have Nothing to Lose
Mike Ford is not a big time prospect. For the moment, that's a feature, not a bug. Normally, teams hesitate to call up players directly from Double-A to fill a short term need on the major league team for a number of reasons. For example, I was strongly opposed to even considering calling up Gleyber Torres to fill in for Didi Gregorius. Teams don't want to interrupt the development of a prospect. More importantly, they don't want to have to pass the player through waivers if they need a 40-man roster spot. They also currently have an open spot on the 40-man.
I like Mike Ford, but the guy is expendable. If he is terrible, the Yankees can put him on waivers without being too worried about losing a key long term piece. If he's good, then the Yankees benefit from taking a gamble.