Based on how Rob Refsnyder has improved defensively since the beginning of the season at Triple-A Scranton and how he has produced offensively with the RailRiders and in his two games with the Yankees, he should be the starting second baseman and Stephen Drew should be the back-up for the rest of the season.
In 81 games (310 at-bats) with the Scranton RailRiders this season, Refsnyder had a .290 average with seven homers, 10 steals, 17 doubles, 37 RBIs and 45 runs scored. He had a very good strikeout to walk ratio as he had 44 strikeouts and 44 walks. Before being called up after his game with Scranton on July 9, Refsynder was on a seven-game hitting streak and had one or more hits in 16 of his previous 17 games.
Refsnyder had proven that he had mastered Triple-A pitching, but he just had to show that his defense had improved. His defense at second base was his main question mark coming into the season, and was what was holding him back from being called up, and it did improve from April until July.
He made 11 errors in the first month and a half of the season, but made only two since May 23. This proves that he has drastically cut down on his defensive miscues, and in the past 10 games he was hitting .412 with two homers, 10 walks and three strikeouts. It is rare that a player as young as Refsnyder (24) has three times as many walks as strikeouts.
Refsnyder, who will remain with the Yankees after the All-Star break according to the NY Daily News, went hitless in his first five at-bats and then singled and homered in his final two at-bats on Sunday. He played against the Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday and his two-run homer over the Green Monster on Sunday ended up being the game-winner.
In addition to his first homer, he also had his first major league error in Sunday’s win, which proves that he is more ready offensively. He was not able to handle Andrew Miller’s throw to second on what should have been a game-ending double play. The positive that can be taken out of this play was that it was not an error fielding a grounder or throwing to first.
On the other hand, Stephen Drew, who has been the starter at second base this season, only has a .182 average in 247 at-bats. His on-base percentage is also a very low .257. Drew’s batting average is second lowest among all players in the American League who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title and his on-base percentage is fourth worst in the league. The only bright spot for him offensively is that his 12 homers are second most in all of baseball among second basemen.
The second reason besides his power that he should stay on as a back-up (and not get released) is that he has been reliable defensively. He only started playing second after coming to the Yankees in the middle of last season, but he has made only three errors at second this season and he has shown the ability to turn the double play as he has 32 of those. His .988 fielding percentage this season is even better than his last full season at shortstop, which proves how well he has made the adjustment.
However, the Yankees need to a higher average and on-base percentage from their second baseman, which is why Refsnyder should be the starter until he proves that he can’t handle it. Drew will be able to come on as a defensive replacement late in games and serve as a mentor for Refsnyder. There is not much doubt that Refsnyder will be able to handle major league pitching and he will give the Yankees a player at the bottom of the lineup who should be better than most eight or nine hitters.
Refsnyder, who is playing second base in his third season after playing outfield at the University of Arizona and in his first season as a pro, should only get better defensively from here. He also showed improvement in the 2014 season as he made nine errors in 58 games with Double-A Trenton, but he only made three errors in 53 games with Triple-A Scranton.
The Yankees should go ahead and designate Gregorio Petit for assignment because he only has a .167 average and five RBIs in 42 at-bats. He also has one error in 13 games. Brendan Ryan, who began a rehab assignment on July 9, will be able to back-up Didi Gregorious at shortstop and Chase Headley at third.
Refsnyder reflected on his first MLB hit and home run in the below video.
Rob Refsnyder, the 23-year-old (he will be 24 in March) second baseman and right fielder who played in Double-A and Triple-A last season, should be the starting second baseman for the Yankees during the 2015 season.
He offers versatility since he played right field at the University of Arizona, but the Yankees drafted him to be a second baseman, and that is where he has played the majority of his games in the minors. In three seasons playing at Charleston, Tampa, Trenton and Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Refsnyder played 230 games at second, so he has enough experience at the position. After making 25 errors in his first season, he greatly improved defensively in 2014.
In 137 games combined between two levels in 2014, Refsnyder had a .318 average, 14 homers, 63 RBIs, nine steals and 82 runs scored. At AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he played in 77 games and had an impressive .300 average, eight homers, 33 RBIs, 41 walks and 19 doubles. In 64 games playing second base with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre he only had three errors, which helped lead to a .988 fielding percentage.
He can obviously handle pitching at AAA and deserves a chance to prove what he can do in the Bronx. Last season, the Yankees went primarily with veterans Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew at second base. That strategy didn’t work since they had one of the worse offensive years from the second base position out of any team last season.
If Refsnyder plays second, the primary position that the Yankees would have to upgrade would be shortstop. As a result of Derek Jeter’s retirement, the Yankees need to sign a relatively young player who can make the routing and web gem worthy play in the field and hit for some power. Hanley Ramirez is the best available option since he will turn 31 on December 23, and hit .283, drove in 71 runs and stole 14 bases last season.
The Yankees can’t bring back Drew next season based on how he performed last season. Drew had a 10.1M salary in 2013, and hit only .162 with 7 HRs and 26 RBIs.
Refsnyder, who was born in South Korea and was adopted by a couple in Southern California when he was three months old, should be able to handle playing second next season because he is not young for a prospect as he will turn 24 on March 26. He has experience playing in big games since he was named the College World Series Most Valuable Player after his University of Arizona team won the College World Series in 2012.
Martin Prado, who was acquired last season before the trade deadline for catching prospect Peter O’Brien and a player to be named later, played well last season in two months with the Yankees. In 37 games, Prado hit .316 with seven homers and 16 RBIs. He played in 17 games at second base and 12 games combined in the outfield. He only made one error in those 29 games. Prado would make sense as the back-up second baseman and starting right fielder with Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Brett Gardner in right.
Another reason that it would make sense for Refsnyder to be the second baseman is that the Yankees need to have more youth in the lineup because they mainly have players 30 or older. Refsnyder will not likely be injury prone, which is a plus, because Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez are all injury related question marks in the infield. A-Rod is officially back on the active roster after his 162-game suspension, and Headley is a player that Brian Cashman should resign.