2015 Stats: 16 games, .302/.348/.512, 3 2Bs, 2 HR, 2 SB, 5 RBI, 135 OPS+
2015 Contract Status: 40-man roster, under team control
For the last two seasons, second base has been an absolute compost heap for the Yankees. We've seen over-the-hill veterans, never-were journeymen and not-quite-good-enough prospects all take and miss their shots at solidifying the position for the Bombers. In 2015, the team finally called up their most advanced prospect at the position, 24-year-old Rob Refsnyder. He wasn't there long, but the kid from Seoul made an impression during his brief time in pinstripes.
Refsnyder was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted as a baby by American parents. He grew up as a multi-sport star in Laguna Hills, California, and eventually went to the University of Arizona to play baseball for the Wildcats. Rob had himself a pretty solid career at Arizona, even winning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player Award when the Wildcats won it all in 2012. That summer, the Yankees made him their fifth round pick. Although Refsnyder was primarily an outfielder in college, the Yankees switched him to second base and sent him to the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs for the rest of the year. Through 2014, he hit .297/.388/.444 with 78 doubles, 24 home runs, 43 stolen bases and 142 RBI as he made his climb all the way to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
By the time spring training 2015 rolled around, some fans were already calling for him to get a shot at the big league second base job, and the Yankees seemed like they might comply, but instead re-signed Stephen Drew in January. Refsnyder was sent to Triple-A to start the season. He struggled early, but eventually turned things around, hitting .290/.387/.413 with seven home runs and 37 RBI over his first 81 games. On July 11, the Yankees called him up for a big weekend series in Boston, and the kid did not disappoint. He went hit-less in his debut, but got his first major league knock (a single off of Tommy Layne in the seventh) and his first major league home run (a bomb over everything in left field off of Alexi Ogando in the 9th). However, Refsnyder only got into two games over the next week, went hitless and was sent back to Triple-A amidst rumors that he had rubbed some veterans the wrong way or shown some disciplinary issues during his short stint in the Bronx.
Refsnyder struggled mightily upon his return to the minors, hitting just .229/.296/.379 over his next 36 games, and even many of his most rabid proponents began to lose faith a bit. The Yankees brought him back up when the rosters expanded in September, but he didn't even get into a game until the 11th, and only got two at bats over his first 23 days with the team. Even though the offense was sputtering, Refsnyder couldn't seem to buy his way into a game, which was looked upon by many as a sign that the Yankees really did have an issue with his attitude. It seemed like he would never get into a game, and many were even questioning his future with the team.
The Yankees finally gave him a start on September 24th against the White Sox (a game attended by yours truly), and he singled off of Chris Sale. That was enough for the Yankees, who were clinging desperately to their Wild Card lead, to finally give the kid a chance to play, and he shone pretty brightly the rest of the way. Over his last nine games, Refsnyder hit .379/.438/.586 with three doubles and another home run (an absolute monster that provided a huge insurance run in the ninth inning on October 1 against the Red Sox when the Yankees clinched a playoff spot). He looked every bit the top prospect he was reputed to be, and it was awesome to see. He even started the playoff game against the Astros, taking an 0-3 against Dallas Keuchel in the Yankees loss.
If I were basing his overall grade on the last week of the season, he would have gotten an A+. Unfortunately, I had to take into account his early struggles, as well as the rumored disciplinary issues and his struggles upon his return to Triple-A in July, which brought it back down to a solid B. There's nothing wrong with that, and there's plenty for him to build on moving forward, especially if he can get those attitude issues behind him.
So what's next for Rob Refsnyder? All signs point to him making the big league team out of spring training next season and sharing second base duties with Dustin Ackley. Ackley had a great September himself, and if all goes well, a platoon of Refsnyder against lefties and Ackley against righties could prove quite fruitful as the Yankees look to get back to the post season next year. I am hoping that, at some point, Refsnyder wrestles the job away from Ackley full time and develops into the hitting star some people around the game think he could be, but I'll settle for a full season on the roster as a platoon player and some improved defensive skills too. I, for one, can't wait to see him back next season.