The Yankees have officially signed Stephen Drew to a one-year contract, and conventional wisdom suggests that he'll probably begin the season as the starting second baseman. While GM Brian Cashman had already stated that the Yankees would let prospects Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder battle it out in spring training, it looks as if Drew will probably take that spot, at least for now. However, is giving Drew another shot really worth limiting the chance these two prospects with potential have to get some valuable experience in the big leagues?
After what he showed last year, Drew doesn't seem like he'll be a whole lot better than Refsnyder or Pirela. Drew is projected to hit for an 86 wRC+ in 2015, and Pirela and Refsnyder's Steamer projections are quite close to Drew's projected offensive numbers (although in much fewer games). Last year, Drew's performance left a lot to be desired. He hit just .162/.237/.299 with a 44 wRC+ in 2014, and while he did miss spring training and a decent portion of the season, it's unlikely he'll replicate his numbers from 2013 (109 wRC+). Drew, for his career, has hit just .256/.322/.425 with a 93 wRC+. While he'll probably be better than he was in 2014, Drew will probably not be good enough to justify the Yankees playing him instead of giving either of Pirela and Refsnyder a shot.
Besides, Pirela and Refsnyder might be pretty good major leaguers. Pirela is still just 25, and he was a Triple-A All-Star last season as he hit .305/.351/.441. Refsnyder split last year between Double-A and Triple-A, but he obliterated both with the bat, posting a 159 wRC+ in Trenton and a 137 wRC+ in Scranton. While they might not be as good as Drew offensively or defensively right off the bat, the risk of them underperforming initially should be offset by the possibility they would become good, young infielders - the kind of players the Yankees now seem keen on acquiring and developing.
The idea has been floated of letting Pirela platoon with Drew while Refsnyder improves his defense, and this seems like the ideal plan for these three players. Still, 2015 is shaping up to be just a perfect season to see what the Yankees have in a lot of their young players. Let's be frank - unless the Yankees add Max Scherzer, they're probably not making the playoffs next season. Yes, things could break right, and their rotation could avoid serious injury, and Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran (among others) could bounce back at the plate. I of course hope desperately that all of that happens. But, with the Yankees at least preparing more for the future than they have in recent years and Drew not being the kind of player that will really move the needle, shouldn't they just let one of the youngsters get as much experience as possible?
Overall, playing Drew isn't going to make the Yankees a whole lot better in 2015. It also, by taking time away from Pirela and Refsnyder, might make them worse down the road. However, Drew's on team now, and they might as well use him. The best option, as stated above, is platooning him with Pirela to start the season, and then seeing if Refsnyder might have a major league future once his defense improves. He should still improve in Triple-A, and Pirela will potentially still find some playing time in the majors, either at second or in right.
Luckily, with all of the moves they've made this offseason (sans this one), it looks like the Yankees are finally willing to give a lot of youngsters a legitimate shot. If Drew struggles, or if the Yankees are out of the race at the All-Star Break, they should just let their prospects get as much experience as possible in the hopes that they can be major contributors in 2016.