With the news that the New York Yankees traded infielder/outfielder Martin Prado and right-hander David Phelps to the Miami Marlins in exchange for righty Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and Domingo German, a right-handed pitching prospect, generates some different options for the Yankees at second base come Spring Training.
The battle for the newly opened second base job will be between Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. The two have become familiar names to Yankees fans this past summer and they even got a glimpse of Pirela when the rosters expanded in September. Now, all eyes will be on them moving forward as it seems the Yankees are looking to begin the youth movement through the second base position, choosing a player from in-house to fill the void.
There isn’t a doubt both of Refsnyder and Pirela can swing the bat and have solid production at the next level. Both had impressive campaigns this past summer in Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. However, Refsnyder and Pirela vary in different aspects of the game.
Refsnyder created his own blip on the Yankees prospect radar this past summer. A fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Arizona back in 2012, raced through the organizational ladder reaching Triple-A in just his third season with the organization. He started the 2014 campaign with Trenton where he hit a triple slash line of .342/.385/.497. After getting promoted to the RailRiders mid-summer, it didn’t take the 23-year-old long to figure out the International League and finished the season hitting .300 with eight homeruns and 41 RBI in 77 games.
Defensively, Refsnyder is relatively new to the second base position, making the transition after playing right field for the Wildcats in his collegiate days. The Yankees converted him to a second baseman and he has been honing his skills there. With the RailRiders, he had a .988 fielding percentage with three errors in 64 games.
Pirela on the other hand, started the 2014 season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and put together a respectable season for the Yankees top satellite representing the team as the lone member of the RailRiders on the International League All-Star team. The 25-year-old finished the season hitting .305/.351/441 while hitting 10 home runs and driving in 60 runs primarily as a lead-off hitter. Yankee fans caught a glimpse of Pirela when he earned a call-up to New York with the rosters expanded. In a small sample size of seven games, he hit .333 (8-for-24) with a double, two triples and three RBI.
Defensively, Pirela has shown that he can provide versatility aside from being just a second baseman. Stateside, Pirela primarily played in the infield as a second baseman. However, this season he also played at shortstop and saw action in all three outfield spots when Refsnyder was promoted to SWB and the Yankees wanted both of them in the lineup as much as possible.
In terms of the position battle, the Yankees can go with a few different routes in terms of what they deem is most important to the club regarding what they want to get out of the second base position this season. They won’t be getting a Robinson Cano out of their farm system with these two players, but each one can have the potential to be a mainstay in the Bronx.
The Yankees either way will have an inexperience middle of the infield with defensive savvy Didi Gregorius as their new shortstop and either Pirela or Refsnyder flanking him at second base. Yet, New York can go different ways with both players barring one of them is utterly unsuccessful during Spring Training.
Refsnyder seems like the choice many Yankees fans want due to his surge last year as becoming one of the most exciting players in the system. A strong and disciplined bat with a keen eye at the plate in addition to becoming a solid defender at the position makes him a favorite as he raised some interest in mid-July and early August as the replacement for Brian Roberts when he was released by the Yankees.
However, the Yankees can also go the versatility route with Pirela who is able to play multiple positions including outfield which can be very useful to the Yankees with the aging Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury suffering injuries last year. Pirela perhaps is a weaker bat in terms of production, as he can go into spells with being too aggressive and chase bad pitches. Yet, he also can provide a spark at the bottom of the order with his speed and aggressiveness on the base paths.
In either situation, the Yankees are starting to make it clear that they are going for the youth movement with pieces from in and out of their farm system. The trade with the Marlins allows the Yankees to work on Eovaldi, a power arm who can potentially have his best years in pinstripes. Along with the trade, it has now opened up a position that just a few weeks ago wasn’t available and can be won by two players that the Yankees signed and groomed in their system. Either Refsnyder or Pirela can be the first of many young players to be developed through the Yankees farm system and bring back the notion that the Yankees can generate homegrown major league talent.