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.