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Filling the WBC Gap: Yankees second basemen

03/02/2013 10:30 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Which Yankees infielder will shine brightest in Robinson Cano's absence?(AP)
With six Yankees headed to the World Baseball Classic, there will be some extra opportunities in camp for players to step up and shine given a little extra playing time.

While five of those seven are either young prospects or guys you might label “organizational depth,” the absences of two big names in Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano will mean that at least a handful of prospects will get some increased reps on the right side of the infield even after the point where the regular season starting nine starts to play the majority of the innings.

So who are some of the players that could make a name for themselves while the big guns are blazing elsewhere? In Part I of this two-part series, we profiled those who could shine in Teixeira’s absence, and in Part II, we finish off by chronicling those who could most benefit from strong performances while Cano is with his countrymen.

On its own, Robinson Cano’s departure for the Dominican Republic wouldn’t normally cause too much chaos in Yankees camp. However, with David Adams out for the spring due to a back injury, versatile infielders Gil Velazquez and Walter Ibarra also headed to play in the WBC for Mexico, and most of the other middle infielders in camp either corner guys or true shortstops, the Yankees might find themselves very short up the middle infield for a couple weeks.

The return of Derek Jeter around March 10 will free up some of those shortstops – including perhaps Eduardo Nunez – to see some reps at second base now and again, but there are a handful of guys who figure to get the lion’s share of the time until either Mexico or the Dominican Republic is eliminated from WBC play.

Corban Joseph
A second baseman by trade, Joseph has been getting a lot of reps at third base early this spring, but should see some time at second base mid-spring once Cano, Ibarra, and Velazquez depart. He’s on the 40-man roster and he’s a lefty, so his increased versatility could help him win a bench job with the Yankees; he’s proven he can hit, posting a .276-16-52 line between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton last season, and with the Yankees’ wont to keep Eduardo Nunez defensively limited to shortstop as much as possible, strong play all over the diamond could help “CoJo” make his Major League debut sometime in 2013.

Jayson Nix
Last year, Nix replaced Eduardo Nunez as the Yankees’ utility infielder and hit .243 in 202 plate appearances while starting at four positions, including left field. He’s back as a non-roster Minor League invitee and is likely to man second base the majority of the time in Cano’s absence, and with an all-around utility spot likely available given the Yankees’ proclivities with other reserves, a strong spring can only help Nix’s chances of being added to the 40-man roster on April 1.

Jose Pirela
Injuries limited Pirela to just 82 games at Double-A Trenton last year, but the now-23-year-old had a very strong season, hitting .293-8-33 with an .804 OPS while playing second, third, and left field. Pirela is certainly ticketed for Triple-A at best, but a good spring performance could bode well for the future; Cano is a free agent after this season, and if he somehow ends up not being re-signed, Pirela could end up as a candidate to replace Cano and/or be a utility guy in 2014 and beyond.

Wild Card: Addison Maruszak
Maruszak has seen most of his time at first base this spring, which led us to profile him in the first part of the series, but he did play shortstop on Thursday in the Yankees’ split-squad win over/loss to the Astros and spent time at all four infield positions last summer in Trenton. With the roster thin, Maruszak could see some time at second base with everyone out – especially if the Dominican Republic and Mexico reach the semifinals and the Cano/Ibarra/Velazquez trio is still out for the Yankees’ other split-squad day on March 16 – and again, could help himself in the quest for an Andy Phillips-esque role.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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