Earlier this week, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee wrote a fantastic piece on how the Yankees standing pat at the deadline may have saved their future. If not for standing pat at the deadline, we may not have seen guys like Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder in the postseason. Is there a spot for them on the roster next season?
Mark Teixiera's shin injury, which landed him on the DL, led to 46 games played for Greg Bird in the majors. In his 178 plate appearances in the regular season, Bird slashed .261/.343/.529 with a 137 wRC+. Teixeira, meanwhile, slashed .255/.357/.548 with a 143 wRC+. Teixeira was the better fielder, with a DRS of 5 (compared to Bird's -3), but most fans can agree that Bird did a great job trying to replace the void left by Teixeira. But what about when 2016 rolls around? All signs point to the fact that Teixeira will be healthy for 2016, and in a recent interview with WFAN, GM Brian Cashman said that no matter how well Bird did as a fill-in, Mark Teixeira will take back his position at first base.
Looking ahead to 2016, Cashman indicated that rookie first baseman Greg Bird, who hit 11 homers in just 46 games, could begin the season in Scranton when Teixeira returns.
Bird's "performance was tremendous, but obviously what Tex was doing was superior, from the defensive and offensive sides," Cashman said.
Most Yankee fans argue that Bird did well enough to earn a spot on the major league roster, and I'm in this group, but where could he fit? Teixeira is the first baseman, while Alex Rodriguez, coming off a .250/.356/.486 season, is most likely the designated hitter, as he has another two seasons under contract. As of now, the only place where I could see Bird fitting in is as a DH on the days when A-Rod needs a rest, which stinks, considering how well he played in 2015.
Another young Yankee who had a big impact toward the end of the season was Rob Refsnyder. After a brief stint in the majors in July, Refsnyder came to New York as a part of the September call-ups, and started nearly every game following a vestibular concussion to Stephen Drew. Refsnyder slashed .302/.348/.512 with a 130 wRC+ in 47 major league plate appearances, and only committing one error in 106 innings at second base. This was a welcome stat line for Yankees fans, following a .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) slash from Drew. The only move the Yankees made at the deadline was bringing in Dustin Ackley. In his 57 plate appearances (23 games) as a Yankee, Ackley slashed .288/.333/.654 (161 wRC+). A small sample size, but after a cold start in pinstripes, Ackley looked like a solid addition. Stephen Drew's one-year, $5 million contract expires at the end of this season, but many people wouldn't be surprised if he returns to the Yankees next season. If that's the case, Refsnyder may have troubles cracking the roster, whereas Ackley is more of a utility player. If Drew isn't re-signed, Refsnyder is most likely the starter, while Ackley would back him up. Unless, of course, Girardi surprised us all.
Two young outfielders who had short, but pretty big impact in the majors were Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. Williams was called up in mid-June, playing in eight games (22 plate appearances) before having season-ending surgery on his shoulder. In those eight games, Williams slashed .286/.318/.571 with a 139 wRC+. Williams looked pretty comfortable in the majors for a rookie.
Yankees fans got a longer look at Heathcott, and many liked what they saw. Heathcott slashed .400/.429/.720 with a 207 wRC+ in 30 plate appearances (17 games). Another small sample size, but Heathcott did well in all aspects, as he was also called on as a pinch runner in some instances. Heathcott impressed the team so much that he even made the roster for the wild card game. Heathcott really opened fans' eyes with his game winning home run in Tampa back in mid-September. Both Williams and Heathcott are fringe outfielders, and now that Ramon Flores is out of the picture, they're even closer to the majors. But, Heathcott looked better than Williams, and if the Yankees decide to not re-sign upcoming free agent Chris Young, then Heathcott may be the one to get the call.
Bird, Refsnyder, Heathcott, and Williams all showed the league that the Yankees' prospect pool is nothing to scoff at, even if some didn't get much major league time. Bird and Refsnyder made huge contributions as Yankees, as both filled in for injured Yankee starters. Heathcott and Williams both filled in mid-season, while Heathcott was given another look in September. For Bird, there is just no room for him at the moment with veterans locked up under long-term deals. For Refsnyder and Heathcott, their spot in the majors banks on whether or not the Yankees re-sign expiring contracts in Drew and Young. Williams is an injury away, but it's likely he will start 2016 in Scranton. How would you work Bird into the lineup? Has Refsnyder proven he belongs in the majors? And would you give Heathcott or Williams the first shot in the majors? Let me know in the comments.
*All stats provided by FanGraphs.