2015 was an interesting year at second base for the Yankees, as several players logged time at the position. Stephen Drew had a horrible first half of the season, and right as his hitting looked to be getting better, Drew suffered a vestibular concussion, missing the rest of the season. He was only signed to a one-year deal, so it looks like he won't be back in 2016. Of the second basemen under contract for next season, who has the best ability to have a positive impact on the team?
Rob Refsnyder was the one that Yankees fans clamored for in the first half of 2015, and then people became a little less optimistic of the young second baseman. Refsnyder played in four games in mid-July, where he went hitless in all but one game in which he had two hits, including a home run. Refsnyder was later called up in September, where he struggled in his first three appearances, but once he started to get consistent starting time, things began to look up for Refsnyder. From September 24 to the end of the season, Refsnyder played in nine games, and he got at least one hit in all but one of them.
Nobody questions Refsnyder's bat. Refsnyder finished his first season in the majors (just 16 games) with a triple slash of .302/.348/.512 and a 130 wRC+. In Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, where Refsnyder spent the majority of the season, Refsnyder tore it up, slashing .271/.359/.402 with a 123 wRC+. Refsnyder was a top-20 player in the International League in terms of average, and he was definitely a lot more consistent than the other second basemen from 2015.
The one gripe that many fans and experts have with Refsnyder is his fielding ability. In 963 innings at second base in Scranton, Refsnyder committed 18 errors, and had a fielding percentage of .967. To compare, Drew's fielding percentage was .984 at second base in 2015. When he came to the majors, Refsnyder's fielding stepped up a level. Refsnyder played 106 innings at second base, where he committed only one error, which raised his fielding percentage to .981.
One underrated aspect of Refsnyder's game is his speed. In Triple-A, Refsnyder stole 12 bases, and was only caught twice. Refsnyder also stole two bases in his short stint in the Bronx. Refsnyder has some growing to do. His fielding isn't that bad, but with more playing time, it can get even better. His bat is solid now, and he can show some power, and he will only get more comfortable with time. As of now, it looks like Refsnyder is the best option at second base.
At an otherwise quiet trade deadline, Brian Cashman made the decision to acquire utility-man Dustin Ackley to try and improve the Yankees' depth. Ackley struggled very much in Seattle, slashing .215/.270/.366 with a 75 wRC+ in 207 plate appearances. Ackley also had a strikeout percentage of 18.1%, and he wasn't living up to the expectations that come with a second-overall pick. So, to improve their depth, the Yankees sent minor league pitcher Jose Ramirez and fringe-outfielder Ramon Flores to Seattle for Ackley.
When Ackley got to New York, he looked like a new man. He had 57 plate appearances, and in that span, his slash line was .288/.333/.654 with a 161 wRC+. It was a small sample size, but Ackley lowered his strikeout percentage to 12.3%. Ackley had a long stretch of starts from September 12 onwards (when Refsnyder wasn't starting), and Ackley hit .311 over that span.
One of the great things that comes with Ackley is his versatility. Since cracking the major league in 2011, Ackley logged time at first base, second base, and every outfield position. Ackley developed into Garret Jones 2.0, and this versatility could be extremely useful for the Yankees next season. Ackley, more-or-less, is a boom or bust player. He's got raw power, but he has struggled in the past with strikeouts. As a lefty batter in Yankee Stadium, there is obviously an advantage there, but can he become more consistent at the plate, and be able to stick at second?
Jose Pirela was a favorite to win the second base job coming out of Spring Training, until he sustained a concussion, and missed nearly a month. Pirela returned to the majors from May 6 to July 8, and he really struggled in the 70 plate appearances he had in that span. Pirela slashed .212/.232/.303 with a 40 wRC+ in that time, a time in which Drew also struggled at the position. The Yankees sent Pirela to Triple-A following these struggles, where he played very well. In 259 Triple-A plate appearances, Pirela slashed .325/.390/.433 with a 142 wRC+.
Pirela was too good for Triple-A, but wasn't good enough for the major league roster. One of Pirela's biggest problems was strikeouts, as his strikeout percentage in Triple-A was great, at 8.5%, but his percentage in the majors was way up at 20.5%. It seems that Pirela still has to get used to major league-level pitching, but can he get that chance with the Yankees, or is he just a fringe player at this point?
All of a sudden, the Yankees went from having a sub-replacement-level option at second base to having two guys who aren't that bad at the position, and a guy that can fill in if needed. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees decide to re-sign Drew this offseason, but if not, if looks like Refsnyder and Ackley could both see starting time. Who do you think should start at second base? Or, should it just be a timeshare?