Scouting Yankees Prospect #32: Jose Pirela

Pirela has a complete game

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. Working back and forth between shortstop and second base, while his overall numbers in the Gulf Coast League weren't very impressive, he did open up a ton of eyes inside the organization with his improved play over the entire season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jose Pirela
Position: Shortstop/Second Base
DOB: November 21, 1989
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I didn't do as good as I thought I would but I still came out with a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge on things I didn't know before," Pirela said through the help of translator. "I think that will fully prepare me for next year to go into the season with an idea of what to expect."

He hit just .234 with no home runs in 35 games with the Gulf Coast League Yankees this season, a year after hitting .273 with four home runs and 15 stolen bases in his professional debut season in the Dominican Summer League, but he was one of the more impressive players behind the scenes in Extended Spring Training.

"In a way I was a little tired but that's still no excuse," he added. "Things just didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I'm continuing to work hard and I think I should be okay for next year."

A bit shy and apprehensive in his first exposure to playing in the United States during Extended Spring Training in 2007, he did come out of his proverbial shell quite a bit and he was noticeably more comfortable with each passing day.

"It was a big difference for me this season," he admitted. "It was all part of my preparation. I went into the season with an open mind.

"Not only did I play shortstop but I played a couple of different positions that I never played before. I played second, I played third, and everything defensively went well for me. I'm better prepared now."

Pirela garnered a ton of attention from team officials during Extended Spring Training this year and his manager, who also coached him in 2007, cautions his potential doubters to not judge him on his Gulf Coast League statistics alone.

"Don't get caught up in those offensive numbers, mainly his average - he had an absolutely stellar Extended [Spring Training]," said GCL Yankees manager Jody Reed. "He might have been pressing a little bit in his first year in the GCL and they see the stats start showing up on the Internet.

"It was just a great year for Jose from where he was last year and when he came back here and what he did this year, it was almost unbelievable.

"From learning the game, the position responsibilities, the actual movement of the game and the securing of the baseball to make the plays - from top to bottom, defensively it was a great year for him too."

A toolsy player who possesses a very good combination of power and speed, Pirela, who just turned 19 years old in November, continues to gain valuable game experience and most scouts believe he will progress at a very steady pace to start tapping his potential.

"The main thing is just to work hard and just use what I've been taught, and to stick with it and not get frustrated," said Pirela. "That'll keep me going forward.

"The experience is the main thing I need right now, just to learn and absorb as much as I can everyday. Everyday there's a different thing to learn."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2008 GCL Yankees .234 141 4 0 10 19 4 8 19 .288 .277
2007 DSL Yankees .273 238 7 4 29 44 15 34 36 .367 .378


Batting and Power. His career numbers haven't exactly proven it yet but Pirela is a very good hitter. His middle-to-opposite field approach is exceptional for such a young player and he combines that with excellent strike zone discipline. He also has terrific bat speed, giving him the ability to turn on the better fastballs and his strong balance allows him to stay back on offspeed pitches as well. Pirela puts a charge in his swing and he already has shown great gap power. Once he gains a bit more strength, which he has already started doing over the last year, and adds some loft to his swing, he could develop into a very good home run hitter.

Base Running and Speed. Even for a middle infielder Pirela has above average speed and he is also extremely athletic and agile. Once he becomes a bit more confident at the plate and gets on-base a bit more frequently, there's no reason he wouldn't be able to steal 30+ bases in a given season. He can be a game-changer in the speed department.

Defense. Where Pirela has really seen his game progress since he first signed is on the defensive side of the ball. A bit too apprehensive at shortstop a year ago, he became a lot more aggressive in the field and he improved his lateral movement, so much so that he went from a suspect at shortstop to a pretty good one. He also has a strong arm that could allow him to play third base in a pinch or even possibly move to the outfield should the need arise.

Projection. Pirela possesses a good combination of ceiling and security in reaching his potential. Offensively he resembles former Yankees top prospect Jose Tabata with his ability to drive the ball from center to right field, plate discipline, ability to steal bases, and even with his strong frame. Where he differs from Tabata is in the makeup department. Pirela is an extremely hard worker and he is very coachable. His power-speed combination does give the organization some potential lineup flexibility down the road, either hitting atop the batting order or in the heart of it as a run producer. He has the physical and mental tools to be an elite prospect someday, he just needs time and experience.

ETA. 2013. The depth the Yankees have amassed at the middle infield position could stifle his immediate progression through the minor leagues, but he has become an organizational favorite with team officials so starting the 2009 season with the Charleston Riverdogs is a realistic proposition. It'll take a healthy and productive Spring Training to do just that, if not he'll head to Staten Island.

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