Nearly a decade ago, back in 2006, the Yankees signed a 17-year old out of Venezuela named Jose Pirela. Entering the system as a shortstop primarily, Pirela made his organizational debut with the Domincan Summer League Yankees in 2007, but not on the best note, as he committed 29 errors in just 55 games. Pirela had various levels of success offensively between the lower levels of New York's system before seeming to find his groove while playing in Double-A in 2012. A second baseman by this time, Pirela continued to shoot up the organizational rankings in 2013, and made his Triple-A debut by the end of that season.
Simply put, Jose Pirela was one of the International League's best players in 2014. He led the league in hits, including a league-high 11 triples. In his age-24 season, Pirela displayed an impressive ability to combine his speed and sneaky power, as he was the league's sole player to record at least 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 home runs. Versatility was also a strong suite of Pirela's campaign, one that firmly put him on the map going forward for an organization changing on the fly. On his way to a postseason All-Star nod, Pirela played six different positions, with most of his time being spent at second base (60 games played) and left field (31 games played). Defense had not quite become a plus tool for Pirela, but he could perform adequately on a majority of spots on the field, which has tremendous value for so many reasons.
After the RailRiders' season had come to an end, Pirela was called up to the Bronx and made his major league debut on September 22nd that night. In his first at-bat, Pirela laced a triple and added another hit later on. All told, Pirela appeared in seven games, going 8-for-24 and driving in three runs. For Pirela, who just three years prior seemed unlikely to ever even consider a call-up, there was no better way for the 2014 season to end.
Truth be told, there are few players in Yankees' camp this February and March that have more to play for than does Jose Pirela. Now a member of the 40-man roster, Pirela has been looked at as a potential answer at second base and/or a valuable super-utility guy off the bench for Joe Girardi. He could also very well begin the season in Scranton. Pirela's best option this spring is obviously to hit his way into a job, but it is possible that might not even be enough. Should the team need to carry an extra pitcher at the onset of the year, Pirela could be a roster space casualty. At the very best, Pirela could be the team's Opening Day second baseman. Worst case shows Pirela back down at Triple-A after a disappointing Grapefruit League showing. Most likely, the result lies somewhere in between. No matter how April starts, the 25-year old figures to contribute in the bigs this year. Stephen Drew and Rob Refsnyder will provide the competition for Pirela, a late-bloomer looking to prove himself at the major league level.