Baseball America periodically takes a closer look at a prospect who is either just arriving to the majors or is on the cusp of doing so, providing a look at what can be expected from them in real life and also for fantasy purposes.
The Yankees spent nearly a half-billion dollars in the offseason, with the largest portion of that going toward propping up an offense that languished in 2013 and lost top hitter Robinson Cano via free agency to the Mariners.
Among the largest outlays were $153 million to Jacoby Ellsbury, $85 million to Brian McCann and $45 million to Carlos Beltran. Despite that, the Yankees entered the second half at 47-47, averaging fewer than four runs per game. They had been outscored by 37 runs, which translated to a Pythagorean record of 43-51.
This is a long way of saying that despite the cash they dropped, New York still needs help on offense. That’s where Triple-A second baseman Rob Refsnyder comes in.
The 2012 fifth-rounder from Arizona (and College World Series Most Oustanding Player that same year) has done nothing but hit since entering the Yankees organization. Drafted as a right fielder, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Refsnyder converted to second base in pro ball.
From Laguna Hills, Calif., via South Korea, Refsnyder needed less than half a season to earn a promotion from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2014.
He assaulted the Eastern League with a .338/.381/.548 slash line that included 30 extra-base hits in 60 games. The 23-year-old hit .316 with six homers and 13 extra-base hits through 33 games at Triple-A.
“He isn’t flaring balls to right field—all his hits are on the barrel,” said one scout. “And he runs good.”
Refsnyder also does a good job controlling the strike zone. Through his pro career, he’s struck out 171 times and walked 137 times.
What To Expect
So why isn’t Refsnyder at Yankee Stadium already? The organization, not to mention rival evaluators, believe he needs more reps at second base, especially with a rotation that includes groundball-oriented starters such as Hiroki Kuroda and Brandon McCarthy.
Yankees superscout Gene Michael told the New York Daily News he believes Refsnyder can play second in the big leagues. “I haven’t seen anything I don’t like,” he said.
But general manager Brian Cashman said in the event of a callup, Refsnyder would play the outfield, meaning right field, since left and center are manned by superior glove men Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
But therein lies the rub. The Yankees moved Refsnyder to second because his bat, while quick and true, profiles more as a keystone player than a corner outfielder. So that if they call him up and installed him in right field, then they would have an outfield with below-average power. Or if he plays second, he might not be defensively fit.
What’s more, incumbent second baseman Brian Roberts, while his batting average has been low, has been among the more consistent ball-strikers, leading the Yankees in hard-hit rate, which according to ESPN is data provided to major league teams measuring off-the-bat velocity and contact off-the-bat rates.
In any event, should the Yankees continue to struggle on offense, Refsnyder could get the call, if only because he’s one of the only internal moves the team can make to buttress an aging squad, though Cashman recently said his “preference would be to let him play the year in Triple-A.”
At the fantasy level, Refsnyder could provide average, but won’t do much in terms of home runs or steals. He could provide runs scored if he bats near the top of the order, but that’s standing the rookie would have to earn.