Scouting Yankees Prospect #41: Jose Pirela

Pirela's bat is really special

The Yankees signed offensive-minded shortstop Jose Pirela for $300,000 out of Valera, Venezuela as part of their 'July 2nd' signing group in 2006. Possessing an intriguing combination of power and speed, he finished tied for the team-lead in home runs and second in stolen bases for DSL Yankees1 this past season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jose Pirela
Position: Shortstop/Second Base
DOB: November 21, 1989
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"Thanks to God, I felt like I had a really good year," Pirela said through the help of Dellin Betances translating. "I felt like my offense and my defense improved a lot this past season."

Playing his professional debut season as 17-year old, he hit .305 through his first 24 games in the Dominican Summer League, but tailed off towards the end with a .256 in his last 41 games.

"Pirela made great improvements," said Yankees Director of Latin American Scouting Carlos Rios. "He played a lot, got tired at the end, and made some errors early in the year. At the end he was outstanding in the playoffs defensively. We're happy. We saw a hitter mature and we saw a fielder mature at the end."

While nobody is worried about his vast offensive potential, the early concerns were with his defensive abilities at shortstop. And while he did manage to play a handful of games at second base, he was still charged with 29 errors at shortstop in his first year.

"Jose Pirela has shown a lot of improvement, especially because he has been playing short and second," DSL Yankees1 manager Julio Valdez told us during the season. "He started playing much better, as soon as he got here [to the Dominican Republic]. He has looked much better defensively. We know he can hit."

Realizing he is still extremely young and has a lot of time to work on his defensive game, Pirela himself doesn't seem too concerned with his fielding. In fact, he's happy with his progress.

"I learned to attack the ball and keep my eyes on the ball more," he said of how he improved defensively. "I feel like I'm pretty good right now defensively but I'd like to just keep working on it more and more. I felt a little uncomfortable in the beginning at second base but I thought I played pretty well over there."

Offensively, he showed great patience at the plate for a player his age and he believes getting that first professional season under his belt was the biggest first step in tapping his potential.

"I feel like I'm coming out of my shell a little bit and this year helped me a lot with that," he admitted. "I just want to be more patient offensively, wait for the ball and load quicker on my back leg.

"The first year experience helped me and I think I'll be ready for it better next season. I'm just going to be working hard this offseason to prepare and get ready so I can stay there [the United States] the whole year."

One of the more impressive players at Dominican Instructs this offseason, he is quickly earning the reputation inside the organization as an elite bat.

"The first day I saw Pirela I saw he had a hammer, when you've got quick hands [through the zone]," said Victor Mata, the Yankees Latin American field coordinator. "He has short and quick hands. He improved that a lot and he played hard.

"I've seen a different Pirela this year. He can drive the ball, he can run, he's a better fielder, and he plays hard. He's got a good chance to be a major league player [at] second base, shortstop, or centerfield - I see him playing one of those three. He's fielding better and he's moving his feet because he listens.

"A guy like Pirela will move quick because he listens to the coaches and does whatever you tell him to do, and he tries. The biggest thing is he plays hard. He loves to play."

Despite not even stepping foot in an official minor league game in the United States yet, the Yankees believe Pirela is already one of their better prospects.

"He'll be ready for this jump," Rios concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2007 DSL Yankees .273 238 7 4 29 44 15 34 36 .367 .378


Batting and Power. Pirela's signature calling card is his bat. He is a very disciplined batter, especially for a player so young, and his center-to-right field approach is mature beyond his years. He has plus bat speed and can turn on even the elite fastballs. Despite hitting just .273 in the Dominican Summer League this past season, he has all the attributes to be a perennial .300 hitter down the road. The ball jumps off of his bat and he has shown great gap power already and that should turn into home run power as he matures and gets stronger.

Base Running and Speed. Pirela has above average speed, certainly enough to steal anywhere from 25-40 bases per season. The question will be, as a developing power hitter, if he'll have the opportunities to steal that many as he collects more extra-base hits and hits further down in the lineup.

Defense. His above average speed helps his range in the field but he hasn't shown an ability to make the plays over at shortstop. He has a strong enough arm to play in the outfield, and that could certainly be his ultimate defensive destination, but the early returns have been favorable at second base and that's where he profiles best at the current time.

Projection. The jury is still out which position he'll settle into defensively, although second base or centerfield appear the most likely spots. Offensively, Pirela resembles top Yankees prospect Jose Tabata with his ability to hit liners from center to right field, steal bases, and hit for average with good plate discipline. And like Tabata, Pirela could steal quite a few bases in the leadoff role at the lower minor league levels but projects to hit in a run-producing spot when it's all said and done with his above average power projection.

ETA. 2012. Pirela will definitely make his United States debut next season but where he'll break camp is a bit cloudy. His ceiling is so high that he could theoretically be one hot Spring Training away from starting in Charleston, but the safer bet is with one of the short-season league teams, either with Staten Island or more likely in the Gulf Coast League.

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