"He stood out because he plays hard. Out here, guys don't run balls out, but he runs out everything," one scout said. "But there is more to him than that. He has nice actions around the bag and he swings it good, too."
When that report was relayed to pro scouting director Billy Eppler, he wasn't surprised. "He enjoys playing the game," he said. "He hates the offseason. He wants to play."
Signed in 2006 out of Venezuela, Pirela spent the season with high Class A Tampa, batting .252/.329/.364 without much power (five homers) but with plenty of speed (13 triples, 30 stolen bases). The 21-year-old logged 99 games at shortstop for Tampa and 23 more at second base, committing 30 errors total. He focused on the keystone in the AFL, where he looked overmatched at the plate and started just 16-for-89 (.180).
A righthanded batter, Pirela's strength is hitting the ball to right-center field with a swing that starts with his hands staying inside the ball.
"There are times when he can crush a fastball in, but that's not a strength," Eppler said. "He stays on the ball really well because his hands get through the zone."
While fellow second basemen David Adams and Corban Joseph have Double-A experience, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Pirela is just as physical. "(Pirela) has enough hitting ability to hang at the major league level," Eppler said. "He has enough foot speed and bat speed."
What he doesn't have is a clear opening. Triple-A shortstop Eduardo Nunez stands next in line to serve as the Yankees' middle-infield reserve.
"(Pirela) is more experienced at shortstop—he has more games played there," Eppler said. "But I think the plan is for him to work at both positions."
• The Yankees were considering Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred as a candidate to replace Dave Eiland at the big league level before giving the job to Larry Rothschild.
• Rudy Guillen and Marcos Vechionacci, both of whom once ranked among the organization's top prospects, became minor league free agents in November.