Thursday, April 2, 2015

Timing is not right for Yankees’ Refsnyder

As the New York Yankees enter the 2015 season with less than stellar expectations from analysts, it is going to be one of those seasons in which fans clamor for the young players to take over in the Bronx. In fact, it has already started.

Brendan Ryan, who admittedly has not been very high on my must-roster list, was injured in Wednesdays' game against the Tampa Bay Rays. He has been diagnosed with a grade-two strain of his right calf. Ryan, who seems to be a fairly brittle man, is expected to start the season on the disabled list.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they do not have a tailor-made option available to back up shortstop on the roster. While Jose Pirela would have been an easy fallback option for the utility role, he's still recuperating from a concussion suffered well over a week ago. Pirela was having an excellent spring before the injury and would have likely slid right into the spot vacated by Ryan.

Even then, Pirela does not play shortstop, so if Didi Gregorius was to come down with an injury, it would require sliding Stephen Drew over from second and it does not seem like the Yankees want that to be their first choice. So, who did fans instantly think was going to come to the Yankees aid?

Rob Refsnyder.

It is going to take a lot more than one injury, to a utility player mind you, to get Refsnyder up with the big club. He has had a spectacular spring (.333/.447/.538 in 47 plate appearances), showing he is ready to perform with the bat, but he is still getting used to playing the one position he can now, second base.

If the Yankees wanted Refsnyder to be their everyday second baseman that is one thing, but it is not the case. At least not right now. Like it or not, Drew is the man at the keystone and it will take an injury to him, or several weeks of pathetic play to change that. As I'm writing this, the Yankees officially announced via the club's Twitter account that Refsnyder has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

So, instead of having Refsnyder sit on the bench (the right call in my opinion), the Yankees acquired Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Petit can handle multiple infield positions including shortstop, exactly what they expected from Ryan. Petit might actually have a better bat than Ryan (.278 average in 62 big league games; .271/.326/.378 in over 4,000 minor league at-bats).

The club could also opt to go with Nick Noonan who can also play multiple infield positions. He's hitting .212/.243/.273 this spring. Noonan has just 111 regular season plate appearances in the majors with a .499 OPS. Noonan, like Petit is a career minor leaguer.

Let's remember that this is a utility role, one which hopefully stays that way for the Yankees. The Yankees do not want Refsnyder playing in limited games, they want him getting regular at-bats and plenty of time at second base at Triple-A so that he is ready by midseason, again if absolutely necessary.

The Yankees hope Drew will be good enough to maintain the second base role this season, giving Refsnyder a full year at Triple-A. The club believes the time would allow Refsnyder to become completely acclimated at second base and take over the position for good in 2016. We all know it's not a perfect world, so Refsnyder's chance could come in due time. It is just not right now.

Photo of Rob Refsnyder courtesy of Tom Hagerty via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors' Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.


  1. This goes hand-in-hand with the less savory fantasizing among the MSM and Yankees fansites; wishing injury on players because your favored player isn't otherwise good enough to beat the incumbent.

    As has been mentioned before, Brendan Ryan is the best defensive Shortstop on the Yankees barring injury. Had the Yankees released Ryan, as some wanted, he would have been picked up by any number of ballclubs. As it is, all the prognostications about his absence leaving the door open for Pirela and Refsnyder have fallen by the wayside (without much reflection on the ignorant prognosticators, I should mention).

    Rookies typically make MLB teams based on one of three outstanding features: Defense, Baserunning, and Power.

    Refsnyder is none of the above; a converted minor league OF (unremarkable range) with poor infielding skills, poor baserunning skills, and unremarkable power.

    Pirela is also none of the above; a converted minor-league OF (poor range) with poor infielding range, unremarkable baserunning skills, and unremarkable power.

    Neither is an adequate replacement for either Ryan or Drew, both of whom are converted Major League [b]Shortstops[/b].

    Both are nothing more than RH bats to be used late in games that the Yankees are behind in and don't have much chance of winning anyway...and even then, they're not great RH bats given their lack of power which is needed to turn the tables in those kinds of situations.

    So the new prognostications of "If Drew is [hopefully] injured, Refsnyder and Pirela can finally take his job" is simultaneously disgusting and foolish*.

    If it gets to the point that Refsnyder or Pirela replace Drew at this point in their skill development, then the Yankees will have already thrown in the towel on the season - ie neither is viewed by the Yankees organization from Denbo to GIrardi to Cashman as part of the winning formula (as opposed to namesless 'sources" and "scouts" ginned up by the media).

    *Pirela was never making the team to replace either Drew or Ryan, not because Drew or Ryan had contracts or other some imagined nonsense, but because Pirela is a defensive black hole at 2B as surely as Jeter was at SS. In short, the fans should be given a cold dose of reality: If you think Ryan and Drew are really that bad, you'll have to live with the fact that Pirela and Refsnyder are worse. Better for your egos to simply acknowledge that Refsnyder and Pirela are being beaten out by a couple of good players, then by a couple of scrubs (which they are not).

  2. Thanks for reading and the comment, Terry. I agree with some of your points. First, you're right suggesting neither Pirela or Refsnyder should be involved in a discussion to replace a shortstop. From a fielding standpoint you're probably right, that neither Pirela or Refsynder will amount to the level Ryan and Drew have displayed in their careers.

    But, Ryan can't hit period, and if Drew resembles what he did in 2014 with the bat (I don't think he will), then it's going to be hard to keep a player who can at least hit down in the minors for an entire season, especially if the Yanks are nowhere near contention and struggling on offense as a whole. In the end, most fans like offense, and that's what drives them to cheer on their team, not competent defense.

  3. The timing is actually perfect for the Yankees to bring Refsnyder up. Why, because they do not figure to be in the playoffs this year and probably next. Why use Drew when he does not figure into the future of the team. The fans need to have a player to get behind. Most fans detest Drew and would have welcomed Refsnyder even if it meant sacrificing wins. The Yankees have a poor offensive team as it stands right now. Why not bring Refsnyder up to improve the obvious weakness to the team? The one thing that he can do is hit. Lets give him a chance.

  4. Les, if you or I ran the Yankees we might not have signed Drew this offseason. Since they did, they'll commit to him for at least 2-3 months and see how he does. If he's hitting like he did last season and as you suggest the Yanks are already out of the playoff picture then they might consider bringing Ref up at that time. I'm all for giving young players a shot, but the reality right now is that the Yankees don't feel Ref is ready to play second base.

  5. Thank you for your response Christopher. You are right, I would not have signed Drew, Capuano and certainly not traded for Jones and Petit. I would have also traded Ryan and Gardner. I would like to say that I can understand the Yankees logic but I don't. They are going to find out the hard way through attendance that the fans will not support their team as designed. They needed to whet the appetite of the fans but showing them a sample of the future. Bird, Refsnyder and perhaps one other prospect would have been on the team. I believe the fans would have embraced the change in direction. Your thoughts?