Last season, previously unknown journeyman Yangervis Solarte had such a tremendous spring training (.429 batting average) that he ended up making the team instead of longtime favorite Eduardo Nunez. Solarte was able to stay hot until June, then he slumped significantly and was eventually traded to the Padres. Now that we're a couple of weeks into spring training, some prospects are starting to standout. Who will be this season's version of Yangervis Solarte?
Early signs point to Jose Pirela, who's off to a nice start. In just five games, Pirela is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with three RBIs. One advantage is that besides second base, Pirela also has experience playing nearly every other position, which would make him a useful utility man. The closest competition could be between himself and Rob Refsnyder, but Refsnyder hasn't been doing himself any favors with his glove so far, as he's already made a handful of errors since games started last week. There could be some truth to all the rumors that he needs more work at second base. Plus, it would be easier to go with Pirela over Refsnyder since the former is already on the 40-man roster.
Speaking of the roster, if anyone should be worried about losing their spot it should be Brendan Ryan. For the second year in a row, Ryan is dealing with an injury that has occurred during spring training. Last season it was his neck, this season it's his back, which he hurt doing bicep curls, of all things. He's expected to resume normal baseball activities sometime this week, but last year's neck injury went on way longer than originally anticipated, so we'll have to wait and see if that happens. He's clearly a waste of a roster spot when injured, but even when healthy Ryan has very little purpose. He is a good defender, but his defense hardly makes putting his bat into the lineup worth it. With the way things currently stand, Ryan could block Pirela from making the 25-man roster if the Yankees opt to add another arm to the bullpen instead of another bat to the bench.
There's still plenty of spring training left for someone else to throw their hat into the ring. Refsnyder has been hitting well, so maybe he'll be able to show the team that his bat makes up for his glove. At this point, I'm just hopeful that someone (anyone) will have a good enough spring training to force the Yankees to cut Ryan. Plus Solarte was part of the reason that April was so fun to watch last year, so it'd be nice to see someone take spring training by storm and sneak onto the roster, if only so we don't have to depend on the rotation and bullpen for all of our excitement.
Who do you think will be this year's version of Yangervis Solarte? Does Refsnyder stand a chance? Will it be someone besides Ref or Pirela?