If you believe in WAR, you might notice that Rob Refsnyder has been a below replacement level player for the Yankees this season. He has a slash line of .258/.331/.323, which constitutes below league average production. Combined with the fact that he has gotten most of his action in at first base, a traditionally offensive position, it is easy to see why the metrics don't like him. He certainly isn't looking like the prospect who was once considered the successor to Robinson Cano at second base.
The Refsnyder hype train really got going in 2014, when he mashed at Double-A Trenton. In 60 games, he had a .933 OPS, with 30 extra base hits. Despite his newfound power, he only struck out 15.6% of the time. He had also won the Most Outstanding Player award in the 2012 College World Series, leading the Arizona Wild Cats to a national championship. Other than his shaky infield defense, he had passed every test with flying colors.
The Yankees can work with his batting average and on-base percentage. However, Refsnyder has not hit for any power whatsoever. He has just eight extra base hits in 43 games for the season, all doubles. His low slugging percentage is dragging his wRC+ down to 74, meaning his production is roughly three quarters that of a league average hitter.
Looking deeper into Refsyder's 2016 season, there are encouraging and discouraging signs. According to Pitch F/X data, his contact ability and plate discipline are both above average:
He has a pretty high groundball rate of 49.5%, though. For reference, there are pitchers who throw mostly two-seam fastballs and sinkers with lower groundball rates. Refsnyder's groundball problem isn't anything new, but it continues to sap his power. His grounder heavy tendencies also don't pair well with his above average pull rate of 43%. In 2016, Refsnyder has a .792 OPS on balls hit to the pull side, compared the league average of .962.
When pull hitters struggle, it is usually for at least one of two reasons. One is that they will often fail to hit the ball in the air when they pull the ball, while some will be too aggressive trying to uppercut pitches into the seats and fail to make contact. Refsnyder does not have a strikeout problem, with a manageable strikeout rate of 14% for the season. Unfortunately, he has struggled to lift the ball when he hits to the pull side, with an extraordinarily high groundball rate of 71.7%.
The bad news is that Rob Refsnyder's affinity for hitting grounders to the pull side has not subsided. The good news is that he can afford to strike out more if it means hitting more flyballs and getting his power numbers up to a respectable level. His average exit velocity of 89.3 mph is around the same as hitters like Brian McCann and Lorenzo Cain, two hitters who have produced at a roughly league average level this season.
Perhaps Alex Rodriguez can begin his career as a special instructor by helping Refsnyder generate more lift in his swing. He has shown the basic framework of a hitter who is ready to produce at the big league level, but the excessive grounders will only continue to hold him back. With a bit of tinkering in the batting cage, the former fan favorite could be a reliable big leaguer in the very near future.