Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 35th round back in 2014 out of Florida’s Flagler College, left-handed pitcher Kyle Bird reached Triple-A Durham for one relief appearance in 2017, spending the rest of the season in the bullpen for Double-A Montgomery. Across both levels, the reliever got into 54 games, logging 74.2 innings and finishing 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA. In that span, he allowed 65 hits (.240 opponents’ batting average) and 30 walks, with 70 strikeouts (8.4 K/9). Armed with four pitches and experienced in getting some length out of his relief outings (232 innings pitched across 142 career appearances), Bird has some middle relief pitchability in his profile along with stereotypical lefty-on-lefty matchup capability.

Listed at 6’2″ and 175 lbs., and already 24 years old (DOB: April 12, 1993), Bird doesn’t have much time left to grow into his body with any considerable weight, and is more or less in his final physical form with velocity and stuff. That said, he could make an impact with the Tampa Bay Rays as soon as 2018 thanks to his steady consistency and ability to throw strikes with his entire arsenal. We saw two of the lefty’s relief appearances in 2017; below, you’ll find our full Kyle Bird scouting report, including game video, tool grades, and notes on future projection.




Kyle Bird, Tampa Bay Rays — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: July 19; July 21

TOOL (FV)
NOTES & COMMENTS
Four-Seam Fastball (50)
Pretty standard four-seam offering. Uses it primarily to glove side, opts for two-seamer to his arm-side. Gets good extension out front on the pitch and generally has pretty decent command, but doesn’t always finish the pitch on follow through and will leave it up. Not a go-to pitch; not fast enough to overpower hitters, and lacks the life of his two-seamer to draw weaker contact. Serviceable for pinpoint strikes early in at-bats and to glove side, but used sparingly besides that. Velocity: 90-92, T 93.

Two-Seam Fastball (50)
Good late life to his arm-side; he typically only uses it to hit the target on arm-side corner, which accentuates the movement. Modest late sink; high three-quarters release point helps, especially when down in the zone. Pitch tunnel mirrors changeup. Not overpowering, but enough velocity behind two-seamer to use it satisfactorily in most situations. I’d love to see him go glove-side with it more often, and see if he can start it off the plate and run it back over the corner. Velocity: 88-90, T 91.

Changeup (40)
Lacks nuanced feel for it side to side, but able to tunnel it to arm-side corner with some regularity. Lacks pronounced tumble, but functions well down in the zone with speed differential. Needs to build out some more advanced feel to really use this pitch effectively, especially against RHH. Will occasionally tip it by slowing down noticeably through mechanics, release, and extension out front. As it is now, throwing it down in the zone with his  current speed differential is fine, but it’s far from an above-average pitch. Velocity: 80-82, T 83.

Curveball (45)
True 12-to-6 break. Good arm speed and extension consistently gets him out front at release, but he doesn’t always finish the pitch and has a tendency to leave it up above the knees too often. Can be a strikeout pitch, especially against LHH. Potential to be above-average but will need some work and consistency down in the zone and as a wipeout pitch. Velocity: 72-75, T 76.

Slider (55)
Very tight with good break; 11-to-5 tilt that sometimes fades into 10-to-4. Either way, break is late, definite depth, capability to miss bats against both RHH and LHH. Good extension to get it out to his glove side, also enough feel to back-door it to arm-side corner. Very good arm action on the pitch. Like curveball, doesn’t always fully finish the pitch in follow-through, but that doesn’t seem to hurt his command here as much as it does with the curve. Velocity: 81-83.

Control/Command (52.5/50)
Average on both counts; control is slightly ahead of command, though not by much. Definite feel for all pitches in his arsenal, but must develop a more consistent nuanced feel for spotting his changeup to specific zones, and for keeping his curveball down. Mechanical changes to improve follow-through will help improve consistency of command down in the zone. Nevertheless, Bird is a strike-thrower out of the bullpen who has a deep enough arsenal that he knows he doesn’t have to nibble.

Mechanics
Standard start and balance point; stays on line through landing and shows consistent high three-quarters release point. Fails to consistently involve his lower half, and tends to finish high without following through all the way to the plate. That lack of follow-through will affect his command at times, and perhaps his velocity. Tends to leave some pitches higher than he should because of follow-through, even with consistent timing and release. Good, short arm path on the back side and quick arm speed through release; great extension at times even considering his lack of lower half drive and finish.

Intangibles
Slow heart rate in higher-leverage relief situations. Has enough of an arsenal to face hitters more than once, which allows him to work multiple days of a series and/or work multiple innings in a longer relief outing. That alone may push him towards long relief/piggy-back type outings. Far from a traditional one-out LHH specialist at this point in his career, and it’d take an adjustment to become that refined at the big league level, but his handedness and arsenal will provide at least modest matchup value in 2018 as he begins to learn the nuances of specialist work.

Kyle Bird Scouting Report — 2017 Game Video




Kyle Bird Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Kyle Bird is an interesting case at this point in his career: he’s never started so much as a single game in his professional life, despite having five pitches and the ability to work multiple innings, and yet he’s never really filled out a short-stint, late-inning specialist role either, even as he’s spent much of the last two seasons in the upper minors (and the Arizona Fall League). To that end, you’d figure he may be ticketed for middle relief or swingman duties in 2018 with Triple-A Durham and, at some point, the Tampa Bay Rays, but I figure his handedness and feel for two distinct breaking balls will tempt the Rays to test him as a true lefty specialist at some point. In short, specific stints like that, perhaps Bird’s two-seamer/slider/curve combo will play up and he’ll miss even more left-handed bats. That’s a big and very nuanced adjustment to make, however; it’s perhaps more realistic, at least for 2018, that Kyle Bird will reach the big leagues as a low-leverage middle reliever with multi-inning capabilities.

kyle bird scouting report tampa bay rays baseball 2




Kyle Bird Scouting Report — Future Projection

As big league bullpens continue to carve out highly specific roles in middle and late innings, perhaps there’s a future home for Kyle Bird as a piggy-back reliever of sorts. Not in an explicit piggy-back rotation system, per se, but more as a close-game middle relief bridge for when a starter gets chased early and the club needs a multi-inning reliever with some chops before settling into their typical 7th/8th/9th inning high-leverage relievers. Bird’s deep arsenal and extensive multi-inning experience will help him, and in a best-case scenario, he could become a middle-inning fireman to help get the ball to late-inning relievers while occasionally facing a lineup more than once, and occasionally working as a lefty specialist. He’s probably spend the bulk of 2018 at Triple-A Durham, but based on his track record and arsenal, he’ll likely make sort of impact on the Tampa Bay Rays by the end of next summer. Considering that, and what’s he’s done so far, it’s not a bad story for a guy initially taken in the 35th round more than three years ago.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Middle inning (6th/7th) bullpen role with LHH match-up capability; enough in arsenal to be a multi-inning long man (45)

MLB ETA: 2018




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