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.
On Friday afternoon, the Yankees placed Carlos Beltran on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 1. He is on the DL due to a left oblique stain. Taylor Dugas who was surprisingly called up to the Yankees on Wednesday, was sent back down to Triple-A Scranton.
Beltran now joins Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list, which means that two out of their three Opening Day outfielders are on the DL. They will need Chris Young to continue hitting like he has been. In Beltran’s 66 games played this season (242 at-bats), he has a .260 average with seven homers, 18 doubles, 21 runs scored and 30 RBIs.
He has really improved over the last two months as he only had a .162 average at the end of April. After not hitting any homers and only driving in 12 runs in his first 26 games of the season, he went on to hit seven homers and drive 14 runs in his next 31 games. Beltran, who is 38, is batting .306 with a .500 slugging percentage and .883 OPS in his last 21 games.
The Yankees have recalled both middle infielder Gregorio Petit and outfielder Ramon Flores from the Scranton RailRiders. Flores, who has a very strong arm in left field, threw out a few runners at home while appearing in 10 games earlier this season. He had a .250 average with three runs scored and a double in his 28 at-bats. In his 225 at-bats this season with the RailRiders (59 games), Flores has a .289 average with six homers, 24 RBIs and 32 runs scored.
Petit, who has gone back and forth between the Yankees to Triple-A this season, has played second and third this season. Petit, who is 30 and in his first year as a back-up infielder with the Yankees, has a .184 average with five RBIs and six runs scored in 38 at-bats this season. However he has hit much better while playing for Scranton this season as he has a .333 average in 42 at-bats with four RBIs and eight runs scored. He will mainly be relied upon to provide solid defense.
Neither Flores or Petit will get the start tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays, as the Yankees will play the same lineup as they did during Wednesday’s win against the Angels. The Rays and Toronto Blue Jays are both one game behind the Yankees (42-37) and Baltimore Orioles, who are both tied for first place in the very competitive AL East.
After this series, the Yankees will play three games against the Oakland Athletics (37-45) and then three games against the Red Sox (37-44) before the All-Star break. It is important that the Yankees win six or more games in this nine-game stretch because all three teams are either struggling or at least seven games under .500.
Here are the pitching matchups against the Rays, who have lost eight of their previous 10 games.
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (4-3, 3.88)
RHP Chris Archer (9-5, 2.31)
7:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
RHP Michael Pineda (8-5, 4.08)
RHP Nathan Karns (4-4, 3.26)
1:05 p.m., FS1
RHP Ivan Nova (1-1, 1.50 ERA)
RHP Erasmo Ramirez (6-3, 4.01)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
After winning the final game of their series at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Yankees (39-33) will play the first game of their four-game series in Houston against the Astros tonight at 8:10 p.m. EST. The Astros, whose 42-32 record is better than anyone could have predicted, lead the American League in homers (107) and are third in slugging percentage and total bases.
Adam Warren will start the first game of the series against the Astros. This could be his last start before going back to the bullpen because Joe Girardi said that he didn’t think the six-man rotation will go past the series against the Angels. Warren, who has a solid 5-4 record with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts this season, has allowed three runs or less in his previous eight starts.
In Warren’s last start, he had his best performance of the season as he pitched a season-high eight innings while allowing two earned runs and striking out a season-high seven batters. However, he was not as effective in his start on June 14 since he only threw 4.2 innings while allowing three walks, six hits and three earned runs on 92 pitches. He has been an asset to the rotation to this point of the season, and can definitely give the Yankees another quality start against the Astros, but with Ivan Nova’s return he will be more valuable as an impact reliever in the bullpen.
Dallas Keuchel, who is the Astros ace and will get the start tonight, is a lefty who has an 8-3 record with an outstanding 2.35 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. His 2.35 ERA is third in the American League, his pitching WAR is tied for third in the AL and his 0.98 WHIP is tied for second in the AL.
His home ERA (1.62) is much better than his road ERA (3.14), but he has struggled in his previous two starts as he has allowed five and three earned runs, respectively. In his last start, Keuchel gave up a season-high three homers and three walks in his start in Seattle against the Mariners.
Brett Gardner is 16-32 (.500) in his last seven games with 12 runs scored, four homers, 10 RBIs. He is having the best month of his season as those outstanding numbers in the last week have given him a .326 average in June with a .607 slugging percentage, six doubles, 24 runs scored and 17 RBIs. His 55 runs scored are third in the American League and his 15 steals are tied for second in the AL.
Gardner has the game off tonight even though he has hit so well over the last seven games. Joe Girardi has given him the night off because Keuchel is lefty and Gardner has a .239 average against southpaws this season. Gardner has also started every game since May 16 and not had the game off since May 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees activated Stephen Drew from the paternity list today and recalled middle infielder Gregorio Petit from Triple-A Scranton. These moves complete their 25-man roster and will mean that the Yankees will have a back-up middle infielder and that Garrett Jones will be the only true back-up outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury is close to returning from the disabled list, which means that Chris Young will return to his back-up role.
The Yankees lineup will be less powerful than normal because Girardi has also decided to give Brian McCann the night off against the lefty starter. McCann is hitting .421 with two homers and five RBIs in the last seven days and has a .328 (20-61) average with 12 RBIs in June. Jose Pirela, whose best position is second base, will replace Gardner in the outfield.
Here is the lineup for tonight’s game:
Chris Young CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran RF
Jose Pirela LF
John Ryan Murphy C
Stephen Drew SS
Gregorio Petit 2B
The Yankees lost two of the three games that they played at the Rogers Centre against the Toronto Blue Jays after winning their previous five series that they played when they went 13-3. Their 17-11 record has them in first place by two games in the American League East, but they will need more production from the offense in the upcoming series against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium to win that series.
CC Sabathia, who allowed four runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings, has to be more consistent as his ERA is now up to 5.45. He had an encouraging start on May 1, against the Boston Red Sox, only allowing two runs in six innings, but he was not able to be as effective on Wednesday. “I’m just good enough to lose right now,” Sabathia said after the game. However, Sabathia feels that his stuff is “1,000 percent” better than the last two years and a positive sign could be that he threw 93mph on Wednesday.
Offensively, the team only scored one run in their two losses. On Tuesday, they won 6-1 as four different players drove in one or more runs and Michael Pineda had his best start of the season. However, they lost the series because the offense wasn’t consistent enough as it is very difficult to win a game when scoring only one run.
The Yankees only had three hits in the loss on Monday. In the 5-1 loss on Wednesday, the Yankees only had two extra-base hits and were 0-6 with runners in scoring position. One positive about Wednesday’s loss was that Jose Pirela played in his first game this season after missing the first 27 games due to a concussion he suffered in spring training, and he went 2-4 with a double and a single.
Pirela will be able to give the Yankees offense that they were not getting from Gregorio Petit or Stephen Drew. It is likely that Pirela will split time with Drew at second base, and he has replaced Petit, who was put on the 15-day DL with a bruised right hand, on the roster. Pirela had a .364 average with one homer and four RBIs in eight games across three levels in the minors this season and had a .333 average in seven games when he was called up from Triple-A last season. In 2014, in 130 games with Triple-A Scranton last season, he had a very good .305 average with 10 homers, 60 RBIs and 15 steals.
Petit, who was signed when Brendan Ryan went on the DL at the end of spring training, only has a .200 average in 35 at-bats this season. He also 13 strikeouts and three walks, which has led to him having a low on-base percentage. He was brought in for his defense, but Pirela will be a major upgrade offensively and will be not much worse to about the same defensively. Pirela made one error in his 22 chances at second base in the minors this season.
Drew, who has been the starting second baseman, has a very low .163 average in his 80 at-bats this season. His four homers and 10 RBIs are solid power numbers for a second baseman, but Drew only has two hits in his last 23 at-bats and has only one run batted in in his last 10 games. It will make sense for Pirela to get some of Drew’s at-bats because Pirela played very well at Triple-A and had a very productive spring training. Pirela can give a boost to the offense that Drew has not been able to.
The Yankees will now play a four-game series against the Baltimore Orioles (12-13), who are in fourth place in the AL East. The Orioles have lost their last two games and have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games. Adam Jones has been by far their best player this season. He has an American League-leading .383 average with five homers, 21 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
All of the games for the series at Yankees Stadium can be seen on the YES Network. Here are the pitching matchups:
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-0, 3.81)
RHP Chris Tillman (2-3, 6.23)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78)
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Chase Whitley (1-0, 0.75)
LHP Wei-Yin Chen (0-1, 2.83)
RHP Michael Pineda (4-0, 2.97)
RHP Bud Norris (1-3, 9.75)
The Yankees acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros on Wednesday for cash considerations. Brian Cashman was forced to do this because Brendan Ryan, who was supposed to be the back-up middle infielder going into the regular season, strained his right calf during Wednesday’s spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays. This injury will lead to the light hitting infielder beginning the season on the disabled list.
Rob Refsnyder, who had six errors during spring training, proved that he is not ready yet to play second base at the major-league level. He is definitely a prospect who could help the Yankees at some point this season or in 2016 based on his .357 average and six RBIs in 42 at-bats during spring training, in addition to the .318 average, 14 homers, 63 RBIs and nine steals he had in 60 games at Double-A Trenton and 77 games at Triple-A Scranton last season. However, he has only played second base for the last two seasons, so it makes sense that he needs more improvement defensively.
Petit, who batted .278 with two homers and nine RBIs in 37 games with the Astros last season, is known as a plus defender and can play shortstop, second and third. He hit .297 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs in 85 games for Triple-A Oklahoma City before being called up to the Astros. He played on the Oakland Athletics in 2008 (14 games) and 2009 (11 games) and is a career .278 hitter.
Petit proved that he has some power by hitting 10 homers in at Triple-A, and is an upgrade over Ryan offensively and an upgrade over Refsnyder defensively. His addition makes sense because he can reliably fill-in at multiple positions and will hit for a solid average. He is a solid stop gap until Ryan is healthy and gives the team options.
Petit, who has played in 16 games at second base in his career, could also be a double play combo with Didi Gregorius, which means that there could be a Gregorius to Gregorio start of a double play.