Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What should Yankees do with Jose Pirela?

The New York Yankees have made it crystal clear in recent days that Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are the double-play combination in the infield. Neither player is a force with the baseball bat, but both are considered above-average fielders. That said, these are not the only players keeping Jose Pirela off the Yankees 25-man roster at this point; add Brendan Ryan to the list.

Should Ryan maintain his utility role if he comes back from his back strain and makes it through the rest of Spring Training unscathed? Or should the Yankees send Ryan packing and give the spot to Pirela?

The dilemma is that if Gregorius continues to put terrible at-bats together against left-handers (.184/.257/.233 career slash line versus southpaws) is it any better to slot Ryan in at second/short (lifetime .234/.295/.314 slash)? Or should they slide Drew to short and have Pirela play second when a lefty is on the mound?

General manager Brian Cashman is not sold on Pirela even making the team at this point. He’s certainly not seeing the 25-year-old prospect securing a starting role.

“Once we brought Drew in,” Cashman said according to John Harper of the New York Daily News, “the roster was locked in. There’s no competition in the middle infield.”

Pirela, who is hitting .462 this spring (6-for-13 with 3 RBI), can play second and third and some outfield making him an appealing utility player especially with an MLB-ready bat.

The Yankees would prefer to stress defense up the middle, than hope that Pirela, or Rob Refsnyder for that matter, can handle the position even as an average fielder. Because of that, Refsnyder is expected to start at second base for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while Pirela could see significant time at third base.

The question becomes how long do they wait on Gregorius to show he can or cannot hit lefties? Also, what if Drew is as bad as he was in 2014? What if both scenarios are coming true?

The length of rope should not be that long if the Yankees hope to contend in 2015. The Yankees cannot afford to carry three offensively challenged hitters for two spots for an entire season. They need to be ready to move toward Pirela as quickly as possible, assuming of course he is hitting well at SWB.

Pirela has no control over the decisions made by the front office or coaches. For now, all Pirela can do is continue to hit and keep learning the field and wait until the spot opens up, whether that’s because of injury or performance remains to be seen.

Photo of Jose Pirela courtesy of Eli Christman via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.