Before the emergency appendectomy abruptly ended his season, Martin Prado was having a nice little go as a Yankee. At the time, he was the hottest hitter on the team and his bat was carrying the Yankees to victories they probably didn't deserve. All in all he hit .316/.336/.541 in 137 plate appearances as a Yank, with 7 HR, 18 runs scored, and 16 RBI.
While there's no chance that Prado replicates those numbers over a full season next year, he figures to be a very important part of the Yankee roster. For now he's penciled in as the starting second baseman, but his flexibility combined with the Yankees' age and tendency to get hurt in some spots should lead to him playing multiple positions at multiple points next year.
Yesterday Chad Jennings wrote a post over at LoHud about Jose Pirela and the similarities between he and Prado. The point of Jennings' post was that Pirela could serve as a second version of Prado on the Yankee bench next season and provide additional defensive flexibility that the team will assuredly need. Pirela displayed a minimal portion of his defensive versatility in his 7-game September audition. He played 4 games at second base and 3 at DH, and his 8-24 showing at the plate with 3 XBH, 6 R, and 3 RBI was representative of the kind of offensive pop that was missing from the Yankee bench for much of the season.
In Triple-A before the call up, Pirela was a regular defensive renaissance man for the RailRiders. He spent most of his time at second base, the position he's played "full time" since the team moved him off of shortstop in 2011, but he moved all over the field when the situation called for it. He played 31 games in left field, 13 in right, 12 at first base, 8 at shortstop, and 6 in center. Pirela even played 11 games at third base in 2012, so there's reason to expect that he could handle the hot corner in a pinch as well.
Along with an offense that refuses to score, one of the big staples of the last 2 Yankee teams has been a very shallow, rigid roster. Not only have they not had good bench depth, they haven't had good roster depth top to bottom. Guys like Mark Teixeira and Brian Roberts were only capable of playing one position and they either couldn't play it well or couldn't stay on the field enough to play it all the time. Carlos Beltran had his elbow problem and there wasn't anybody left who could play right field and swing a decent bat. Alfonso Soriano could barely play the outfield at all. There was never a permanent solution found for third base this year and there probably won't be next year with A-Rod coming back.
The Yankees need more help at these positions and having guys like Prado and Pirela around should help beef up the depth at those positions of concern. At the very least, they'll give Joe more warm bodies to use in spots when he needs to rest players or cover for injuries so he doesn't have to play somebody completely out of position. There's no reason for someone like Brendan Ryan to be playing first base or Francisco Cervelli to be playing second. With Prado and Pirela around, those moves won't have to be made.
The 25-PA September sample wasn't enough to say anything definitive about Pirela's potential as a Major League hitter. If the Yankees can go out and find better hitters to fill their bench this offseason, they should do that. But there is a level of reassurance that comes with having 2 guys like Prado and Pirela around and knowing you've got the entire defensive spectrum covered in case of emergency (minus catcher). I called Pirela a "poor man's version of Prado" when I wrote about him a few weeks ago. Considering what Prado did for the Yanks after they acquired him and the multiple positions of concern heading into next season, having that poor man's version around on the bench could be a big help.