Well another season of Yankees baseball is upon us and with it comes some roster spots to fill. If you’ve been keeping up with the team you know that the Yankees loaded the lineup and enhanced the rotation but they lost Robinson Cano to the Mariners and Mariano Rivera to retirement. The Yankees now need to find support in the infield and bullpen as they make a run for their 28th World Series championship.
Now that Spring Training is in full bloom we’ve gotten a good look at a lot of options to fill their holes. Infielders Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts (Both all ready on the Major League roster) have showed signs of being solid players after they each signed a one year deal with the Yankees. Bullpen candidates have come out in full force as they make their case for roles on the big league club that really needs some new arms to step up this season.
But there have been a few surprises so far in spring. Yangervis Solarte has has put on a tremendous hitting display and has flashed some defense in the infield early on and has earned some attention as a dark horse to make the team. Infielder Jose Pirela and reliever Jim Miller have gone relatively unnoticed while putting up very good numbers in Spring Training. So could these two spring stars turn into big parts for the Yankees during the season? Lets check out the pros and cons.
Jose Pirela: 24 years old. 2B/SS. Born: Valera, Trujillo, Venezuela. Bats/Throws: R/R. Height: 5’11” Weight: 210 lbs.
Pros: Pirela can hit! He’s got big build despite his average height and has showed big power potential since joining the Yankees organization in 2007. In 2013 between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre he batted for a slash line of .274/.358/.413 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI. He stole 19 bases in 22 attempts and in 482 at bats he struck out 63 times and
walked 57 times while reaching base 132 times via the base hit. In Spring training so far he’s batted for an above .300 average with a few RBI and a home run. Pirela has a strong bat that could be a plus for the Yankees after losing Cano.
Cons: If you look away whenever Eduardo Nunez has the ball than Pirela may make you leave the room all together. Through 2011 he committed 107 errors in 356 games at the shortstop position. But the Yankees moved him to second base full time in 2013 and he made just 16 errors there after trying his luck at left field and third base among other positions. Still he hasn’t been a consistent defender in his career and it seems safer to hope and pray for an unlikely healthy season for Brian Roberts than to put Pirela out there on a daily basis.
Conclusion: Injuries happen all the time. Brian Roberts could go down in an instant and no one is sure what Kelly Johnson will produce. If push comes to shove the Yankees could turn to Pirela to fill in. In that case the Yankees will have to deal with his poor defensive skills and take whatever production he can give.
Jim Miller: 31 years old. Relief Pitcher. Born: Morristown, New Jersey. Bats/Throws: R/R. Height: 6’1″ Weight: 200 lbs.
Pros: Miller knows how to throw strikes. In 33 games with the Oakland Athletics in 2012 (His last full year in the majors) he struck out 44 of the 211 batters he faced and walked only 27. He has a 7.9 strikeout per nine inning ratio over the course of his four year career and has been consistent on that point. There’s no reason that Miller can’t put up similar strikeout numbers in the coming season.
Cons: In 48.2 innings of work in 2012 Miller gave up 14 earned runs on 39 hits and 6 home runs. He sports a career 2.78 ERA and while this is good he’s shown inconsistency as far preventing runs from crossing the plate. In Miller’s one appearance with the Yankees in 2013 he pitched 1.1 innings and gave up three earned runs on three hits and one home run. He has bounced around from the minors and the majors due to his inconsistency.
Conclusion: So the best closer in history has retired and you need to build up a bullpen that can function without him. Not so easy. With Robertson moving into the closer role the Yankees bullpen really needs help. The Yankees already have a strikeout specialist in Shawn Kelley who struck out 71 in 53.1 innings last year (12 S0/9 innings). Kelley has thrived in that role and the Yankees need someone who can get outs effectively in ways other than a strikeout. But Miller has shown a lot of signs of improvement this Spring Training and if he can keep it up he may find his way on to the roster.
Pirela and Miller could very well turn into big pieces for the Yankees this coming season if they can keep up their success in early Spring Training. The Yankees find themselves without two of their biggest players from the last 20 years. If they’re effective they may may find themselves on the team for longer than just 2014.