Whatever happens from here on out, the Yankees have had a strong season relative to expectations, and a big part of the reason why has been seven of the nine regular position players outperforming their projections. One of the exceptions is the injury-hit Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be a fixture in the lineup due to his talent level and contract. The other underperforming player is of course Stephen Drew, and without a significant investment in him or reason to expect his true talent levels to far exceed his performance, second base seemed the likeliest candidate for an upgrade. Especially since the Yankees did have a seemingly near-major league ready second base prospect in Rob Refsnyder available.
The same Refsnyder, however, has been nailed to the bench here as a September callup; just the one plate appearance as a pinch-hitter all month. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, outside of a brief four game spell in July, Refsnyder has been kept down in the minors all year. The platoon of Drew and Brendan Ryan may feature a pair of wRC+ scores in the 70's, but the Yankees have clearly preferred these two over Refsnyder throughout August. Even Jose Pirela, with his four September plate appearances, seems to have jumped ahead of Refsnyder in the pecking order.
Joe Girardi was asked about his apparent distaste in playing Refsnyder, and here are a pair of tweets from Yankee beat writer Brian Hoch with quotes from the manager.
Joe Girardi on why he hasn't played Rob Refsnyder: "He spent the whole year in Triple-A. He doesn't know the pitching staffs up here."— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) September 14, 2015
Great question. However: "We're sticking with the guys that have been here and played at this level."https://t.co/YFKFkGz8bo— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) September 14, 2015
It might be possible to see why a manager in the heat of a postseason race would trust his veteran players over a rookie, but by this reasoning one wonders how any inexperienced players are to earn playing time at all. We have seen Girardi play Greg Bird, heavily now out of necessity but even before the Mark Teixeira injury when he was spelling Teix and Alex Rodriguez. Of course, Bird is a far more regarded prospect than Refsnyder, and this quote could perhaps be coach-speak to say that Girardi doesn't think of Refsnyder as being truly major league ready.
Questions about his glove have carried on all through the year, but the solitary pinch-hit plate appearance suggests even his bat isn't really seen as a potential asset to the team at this point. Refsnyder did struggle after being sent down around the All Star break, hitting .just 229/.296/.379 in the second half of the season in Triple-A. Perhaps the only thing for him to find his form again will be consistent at-bats but Girardi doesn't seem willing to risk a drop-off from even Drew and Ryan levels of production. The commonly stated "It can't get any worse" is after all rarely actually true. There is a chance Refsnyder could actually be worse than Drew or Ryan, particularly if he struggles defensively as well as with the bat. Girardi did make reference to Drew's recent hot streak in his decision to go with the players who have got him to this point.
We've seen the Yankees be willing to rotate in a young player like Bird when they believe in the ceiling, and on the pitching standpoint there has been a host of rookie relievers up alongside Luis Severino holding down a rotation spot. The team hasn't shied away from giving young players a chance, so this quote from Girardi might suggest a desire not to hurt Refsnyder's trade value more than anything else. If Refsnyder can't even earn pinch-hitting chances ahead of Pirela then he probably doesn't have a role on the 2015 team beyond serving as injury depth.
For now it might just be worth hoping Refsnyder comes back in spring training next year and impresses towards earning some more playing time in 2016. Perhaps it is even time to hope for some useful trade return for him this offseason. So far though, in a year when several key names at the top of the farm system have moved up in overall estimation, it does seem the prospect status of Refsnyder has dimmed somewhat.