It’s a big day for the Bronx Bombers. The New York Yankees promoted one of their big time prospects in Rob Refsnyder. The second baseman will slide into the struggling Stephen Drew’s infield spot and start for the remainder of the weekend series against the Boston Red Sox.
Who is Rob Refsnyder and why is it such a big day for the Yankees and their fans?
Coming off of 2012 Most Outstanding Player honors in the College World Series for Arizona, Refsnyder was drafted in the fifth round by the Yankees. He was selected as a right fielder where he would spend his 2012 debut for the Charleston River Dogs.
The Yankees moved him to second base in 2013, and once they drafted Aaron Judge later that summer, there was no turning back for Refsnyder. His defense, which many still consider a work in progress, wasn’t pretty at first. Coming off of a big spring training at the plate, the Yankees still expressed concerns about his ability to stick defensively at second base in the Majors. He started the season in Triple-A, much to many Yankees fans dismay.
I saw Refsnyder play a three game series against the Gwinnett Braves earlier in the season. Heading into that series, Refsnyder had made seven errors in his first 17 games, confirming that the Yankees were indeed right in taking their time with him. Something seems to have clicked in that series, as Refsnyder’s glove and bat woke up.
Refsnyder played smoothly at second base going head-to-head with another elite second base prospect, the Braves Jose Peraza. While many questioned Refsnyder’s range, I witnessed a play in which he was fully extended in midair, making a diving catch into centerfield. Clearly, the athletic ability is there. The transition from using it as an outfielder to an infielder may be what has been the bulk of his delay to the bigs.
The second baseman made every play he needed to over those three days, and has settled in at second base. He has made just six errors in the 56 games since that start, with a range factor of 5.03. Is Refsnyder elite yet? By no means, but he is better than the options the Yankees have explored thus far in 2015... and maybe 2014 for that matter. Below is yet another play he made recently that shows he can not only field, but has the developing range to be successful.
Refsnyder doesn’t need to be a defensive wizard to stick with the Yankees for the rest of the season. Coming off a breakout 2014, Refsnyder skyrocketed from obscurity to one of the top infield prospects in the game. Last season, between two levels, Refsnyder slashed .318/.387/.497 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI.
His performance in 2014 earned him an invite to spring training, where any heads the 24-year old second baseman hadn’t turned certainly swiveled. Refsnyder went 16-for-44 (.364) over his 26 Grapefruit League games with six doubles, one home run and seven RBI. More impressively, he walked eight times while striking out ten. He seems to have a Major League ready plate approach with good discipline.
Maybe not making the Opening Day roster hindered Refsnyder in 2015 as he crept out of the gates. But starting with that Braves series and after taking home the International League Player of the Week Award in mid-May (the week of the 18th), Refsnyder’s bat is back to normal. Before his promotion he was riding a seven game hitting streak in which he was hitting .440. His season numbers sit at .290/.387/.413 with six home runs and 36 RBI. He has walked and struck out the same amount of times (44). That walk rate has been consistently rising over his Minor League career while his strikeout rate is at an all time low of 12.1-percent.
When a top prospect gets called up this time of year, especially one with the hype that surrounds Refsnyder in New York, you often have to wonder whether that prospect is being showcased for the trade deadline or evaluated for their future in the lineup. While the Yankees could use some rotation depth, they are certainly hurting at second base. Should Refsnyder’s impressive bat translate at the big league level, he will be an immediate upgrade over Drew and his .182 batting average and could become a fixture in the bottom of the Yankees lineup for a very long time.