Scouting Yankees Prospect #30: Jose Pirela

Pirela has all of the intangibles

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. He had quietly gained strong support within the organization in his first two years and finally started showing some of that promise in his first taste of the long-season leagues in 2009.

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

He hit just .234 in an injury-shortened year with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2008 and as a result began the 2009 campaign in Extended Spring Training. However, a blazing start at the minor league complex found him quickly sent to Charleston.

While he failed to hit a home run, he finished the season hitting .295 with 23 doubles and six triples, all while flip-flopping back and forth between shortstop and second base.

"I have learned a lot and I have gained a lot experience from all of the games this season," Pirela said through the help of a translator.

Satisfied with what he accomplished at the low-A level, what makes Pirela stand out from most young players is the intensity he brings day in and day out.

"Pirela just does an outstanding job of bringing his 'A' game every day," Charleston manager Torre Tyson said. "He plays hard.

"When he got here in the first half, he really made some of the college guys step it up. The energy level that he brings to the field is outstanding."

It's those kind of intangibles that are difficult to duplicate and also extremely appreciated by coaches and players alike.

"I love Pirela," Charleston infielder Corban Joseph said. "He's probably one of my favorite players to watch and honestly probably one of the best players I've ever got to play with.

"When I got bumped up from Extended [Spring Training] I wanted him to get bumped up too because he's got so much talent. He definitely saved my butt a couple of times in the field.

"I think he had a great year. The first time I saw him he batted like .250 or something in the Gulf Coast League but he definitely came out of the gates this year."

For some observers, however, despite his all-out hustle and leadership qualities, he doesn't have the one great tool that makes his big league projection a no-brainer.

"I think he's a hitter," Tyson added. "He puts the bat on the ball, he hustles his tail off, and he does everything a manager could want.

"On the tool scale he's good at everything, but there's nothing that stands out, which is fine. There's a lot of big league players like that."

Able to play a few different positions well and do quite a few things offensively, while it's tough for some to pigeon-hole his eventual defensive position, nearly everyone agrees he has what it takes to make a big league impact someday.

"I think he'll go along way, potentially in the big leagues in two years," Joseph continued. "He plays smart, he plays the game the right way, he hustles down the line, etc. I've never seen anyone work as hard as he does everyday."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2009 Charleston .295 404 23 0 46 65 9 37 65 .354 .381
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. Pirela's .259 average entering the season never did his hitting ability any justice. His middle-to-opposite field approach and his advanced strike zone discipline had many believing he was a .300 hitter in waiting, and he proved that in 2009. He is a gap to gap hitter, and while his lack of natural loft limits his home run production right now, he does sting the ball with his line-drive swing. It may take a while but there's some power potential in his game.

Base Running and Speed. Pirela has gotten more muscular since he first signed and his once above average speed has ticked down to merely average at this point, but his all-out hustle and aggressiveness still give him the ability to make an impact on the base paths. He doesn't get the greatest first jump, however, so he's a better runner once he's in motion.

Defense. He has gone from a suspect defensive shortstop when he first signed to a more reliable one recently. His range is okay, but his arm and hands are better. He has also added third base and second base to his defensive repertoire over the years [and he has the athleticism to play outfield], and as it turns out, he has developed into a stellar defensive second baseman. That's definitely his best position.

Projection. Pirela has developed himself into a very good utility prospect already with his defensive versatility, overall intensity, solid bat, and average speed. However, he has incredible intangibles and there's some hidden power in his swing. Should that home run power ever materialize, he would have the chance to become an impact starting second baseman on both sides of the ball. Think Howie Kendrick for his ceiling, albeit more along the lines of Kendrick's big league numbers, and better defensively.

ETA. 2013. Pirela is ready for the Florida State League where he'll most likely play more than one position again, possibly even some outfield.

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