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Rob Refsnyder had one of the RailRiders' two RBIs Tuesday night.


Battle Looming Between Pirela, Refsnyder in Spring

There is a chance the Yankees might decide to play Martin Prado at second base in 2015, which is certainly a possible solution for 2015.

The club could also decide to let two prospects – Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder – battle it out for the position, play Prado at shortstop, third base or the outfield, depending on what moves may be made. Whether to re-sign Chase Headley, who stated he wants to play everyday in 2015, is another question.

Count on Pirela and Refsnyder doing something that hasn’t been seen in Yankees camp in years – that of two prospects battling for a starting position. Many, this corner included, feel it is about time.

Yankees general manager Bran Cashman seemed to set the stage, mentioning both players. So did Hal Steinbrenner in his appearance on Michael Kay’s ESPN-New York (FM 98.7) recently.

“Pirela showed us some things when he came up in September (8-for-24, .333 at the plate and a few sterling defensive plays) and Refsnyder had a terrific season. With Rob, who played the outfield n college, we have a plan to make him a second baseman, and we are going to see it through.”

Steinbrenner praised the pair in his chat with Kay as well.

“Along with (pitcher) Luis Severino, Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder showed they might help us in 2015,’ Steinbrenner said. “We need more like them.”

So Pirela and Refsnyder will engage in competition this spring, a formidable story which could be played out in the shadow of where A-Rod may, or may not, play and what he may, or may not, realistically able to contribute.

Pirela will be 25 in November and is from Valera, Venezuela. He first caught the Yankees’ eye in 2010, when he put together a season at Class-A Advanced Tampa that included 13 triples and 30 stolen bases. He also, despite hitting .252 (112-for-468), struck out just 61 times. At the time, Mark Newman told us how excited he was about Pirela and remained a booster.

There has been no doubt about Pirela’s plate management. In seven seasons in the minors, he has struck out just 480 times in 3,082 official at-bats. He makes contact, solid contact with developing raw power. The issue is he did not impress defensively, at shortstop or in the outfield. His bed position is second base.

“I know what I have to do (as far as defense is concerned), and I am working hard to improve every day,” said Pirela in 2013, his third season in Trenton, a year in which he played an adequate second base, made just about all the plays and improved both his footwork and turning the double play. He led the Double-A Thunder to the 2013 Eastern League Chamoionship. He is a .273 career hitter (842-3,082) in seven minor-league seasons.

He had his best overall season in 2014, batting .305 (163-for-505) at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with 21 doubles, 11 homers and 10 homers. In his 7-game stint with the Yankees, he showed, in a small sample, he could handle both the plate and second base on the big stage.

Refsnyder, from Laguna Hilla, Calif., is 23 and will turn 24 in March at Spring Training. He is coming off by far his best season, having hit .318 (164-for-515) combined with Trenton and Scranton. He had 38 doubles, six triples and 14 homers, adding up to an OPS of .884. He has a career minor-league average of .297 (340-for-1,144). He has struck out 212 times overall.

“No doubt Rob is quite comfortable at the plate,” said Trenton manager Tony Frankin.  Refsnyder’s hitting .342 (78-for-228) in 60 games at Trenton caused a lot of excitement around him. The Twiiterverse called for him to be called up to the Yankees. Unfortunately, Refsnyder was not yet a complete player. As Cashman said, this is a plan the Yankees “will see through.”

Refsnyder has improved his defense, but he still is not solid in turning the double play, and his work with shifts, which the Yankees really began to emphasize this year, was not really satisfactory. In fairness, he hasn’t been playing the position all that long.

At this point, it seems Pirela might have an edge. His defense is ahead of Refsnyder’s. Both players can produce at the plate.

Spring Training will tell the story, It really is unfair to comment on a result until we see the two in Tampa in March.

Written By

Have covered the Yankees and their system for over 20 years. I enjoy writing about future Yankees and where a prospect stands in the system. One rule: I only analyze and comment on prospects I have seen play and have talked to.

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