Statistics: 58 G, .250/.328/.309, 0 HR, 12 RBI (MLB)
54 G, .316/.365/.402, 2 HR, 20 RBI (AAA)
2017 Roster Status: On the 40-man roster, under team control
For the last few years, Rob Refsnyder’s name has been firmly planted on the tip of most Yankees’ fans tongues. Ever since he was drafted, Refsnyder has just straight up hit in every assignment he was given. In 2014, when the Yankees were desperate for offense, Refsnyder’s name kept popping up in “call up the kids!” rants. Unfortunately, his defensive inabilities at second base kept the Yankees from calling him up.
2015 came, and again he was pretty much buried behind the annoyance that was Stephen Drew. While Drew was offensively inept and Refsnyder could have helped, it was less of a big deal because the Yankees were actually scoring runs last year. He was finally given a shot towards the end of the year after Drew went down with an injury. When he was finally given a chance to play (albeit in a platoon with Dustin Ackley), Refsnyder was up to the challenge. So much so, that Refsnyder was rewarded with a start in the 2015 AL Wild Card Game against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros.
After a successful stint in the majors, second base seemed like Refsnyder’s job to lose. At the very least, he and Ackley would form a serviceable platoon and second base would have some life. Second base did show life this year, but that was because Brian Cashman went out and traded Brendan Ryan for Starlin Castro (okay he traded Adam Warren for Castro, but Warren’s back so this is way funnier). With that trade, Castro officially became the second baseman and Refsnyder was left without a position.
The Yankees, to their credit, were determined to try and find a spot for Refsynder on the major league roster. They figured if he doesn’t have an everyday job anywhere, he can improve his usefulness by being able to play multiple positions. Given a chance to play some third base, it did not go well. On March 25th, Refsnyder tried fielding a baseball with his face at third and had to leave the game early. The very next day, on his 25th birthday, Refsnyder tried the same strategy again. He once again had to leave the game early.
The “Thirdsnyder” experiment was over, and the man known for not being a great fielder indeed wasn’t a great fielder, and instead of making the Opening Day roster was sent down to learn how to use his hands to field. After a while, in an effort to improve his stock, Refsnyder even asked if he could start playing games in the outfield. He knew what he could do with his bat, but if he could just get his glove going, he could be of service. Initially he struggled even at Triple-A, but eventually got going with the bat and got used to playing multiple positions. He alternated between second, third, and the outfield while down in Scranton and that paid dividends for him.
In addition to those positions, Refsnyder was given a chance to try and learn first base on the fly. Granted, everyone on the depth chart had to drop in front of him to finally give him a chance, but he played well enough to be useful. Refsnyder suddenly had versatility, and the Yankees were able to take advantage of that to see exactly what he could be.
Refsnyder played 58 games in the majors this year but spent time at five different positions. He wasn’t great at any of them, but he was serviceable. The only thing he needed to do was hit. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a great time at the plate while up with the Yankees.
Though he hit well in Triple-A with a 121 wRC+, he hit for a paltry 72 wRC+ during his time with New York. The biggest disappointment was Refsnyder’s loss of power. While he was never really a big home run guy, he went from hitting 11 bombs over 2015 (nine in AAA, two in MLB) to just two in 2016. Neither of which came at the big league level. Refsnyder, to his credit, has identified this as an issue himself and says that he will try to hit for more power next year.
“I’m going to try to hit home runs next year,” Refsnyder told me on Friday. “I’ve had a lot of good conversations with people and I’m going to try to completely change my game. I think it will help my career.”
Let’s hope he does. Because as David Laurila identifies in that piece, Refsnyder does have solid bat-to-ball skills. If he can develop the power part of his game, he could possibly find his niche.
The B+ grade might be a little high given his MLB hitting, but he was asked to put on many hats and did so willingly, and most importantly, well enough. So that grade comes based on degree of difficulty. I’m also willing to forgive him, if the constant position changes got to him and never really allowed him to get comfortable anywhere. The fact that he was willing to constantly be moved around the field is a testament to him as a person, so he gets credit there.
Going into next year, Refsnyder should have a solid shot of making the team as a utility player. If he can get to hitting where his potential says he can, there’s a chance he ends up being a mini-Ben Zobrist. He won’t be as well regarded, but Refsnyder could become just as useful.
*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.