New York Yankees: Rob Refsnyder is earning a spot on the Opening Day roster

This article was originally published on Outside Pitch MLB

It almost seems like New York Yankees prospect Rob Refsnyder was never supposed to make it in pinstripes.

Not to say that the organization was purposely holding him back; it’s just that every opportunity that Refsnyder appeared to succeed in, a circumstance came along that knocked him back down the totem pole.

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft, the South Korea Native and Vanderbilt graduate did everything the Yankees asked for. After playing right field at the college level, Refsnyder changed his position to second base in an attempt to get through the organization at a faster rate. Although he was commended for his adjustment, it was Refsnyder’s bat that had scouts talking.

In his first full minor league season (2013), Refsnyder slashed .293/.413/.413 between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa. However, it was his dominant 2014 campaign that had many calling Refsnyder the second baseman of the future.

The soon to be 25-year old spent his first 60 games of 2014 with the Trenton Thunder. It was there where Refsnyder hit an impressive .342 with six home runs, 30 runs batted in, five stolen bases, 19 doubles and an OPS of .933. Not to be slowed down, Refsnyder continued to grow at the final stop before the big leagues. Finishing the season with 77 games as a member of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, he slashed .300/.389/.456 with eight home runs, 33 RBI and 86 total hits.

However, while his bat looked ready for the Bronx, it was widely believed that his glove wasn’t. Refsnyder made 12 errors in 2014, and that alone had his name in more trade discussions than call up discussions.

Entering Spring Training of 2015, many believed there was a real competition for the starting job at second base. On one hand, you had Refsnyder; and on the other, you had Stephen Drew, a gold glove caliber player who had just inked a one-year, $5 million contract with the Yankees.

While Drew won the competition as expected, there was just one problem – he was the polar opposite of Refsnyder. There was no doubting that the veteran can (and did) make great plays at second base. However, Drew never looked like the same hitter that he was before skipping out on Spring Training of 2014.

And those struggles at the plate plagued Drew all season long.

Before Refsnyder received his first crack in a Yankees uniform last season, Drew was hitting a woeful .181. And while his strong defense and impressive power numbers were welcoming, fans were calling for the promotion of the youngster, as they’d rather see their own struggle instead of an over-the-hill vet. However, Refsnyder came with his own problems; while he was hitting .290 with eight home runs and 37 RBI at the time of his promotion, he also had committed 13 errors.

This was the first time where it seemed that Refsnyder didn’t get a fair shake. Although he only went 2-for-13 over a four game stint, he was sent back down to the minors. While room needed to be made for Carlos Beltran, rumors circulated that the prospect acted as if he was “entitled” to the second base job, especially due to how poor Drew was playing.

Either way, Refsnyder was sent back to the minor leagues – and he struggled with the demotion.

His second half of 2015 was rough. Not only did Refsnyder hit a poor .225, but he also committed an additional five errors. However, once September rolled around, he received his second chance – and with the rosters expanding, Refsnyder was recalled to the Yankees.

It was the final month of the season where the second baseman displayed his true potential. With Drew dealing with concussion symptoms, Refsnyder and newly acquired Dustin Ackley split duties at second base. In 36 at-bats, he slashed .306/.359/.472 with one home run, three doubles, three RBI and two stolen bases. Most importantly, Refsnyder committed just one error in 15 games. His revival was enough for manager Joe Girardi to give him the start in the one game Wild Card playoff.

Heading into this offseason, Refsnyder was, at the least, going to be a platoon starter with Ackley for 2016. However, many believed that he had the chance to outright win the job, despite his deficiencies on defense.

But yet again, he was hit with a roadblock. During the Winter Meetings, General Manager Brian Cashman traded for former All Star Starlin Castro, who hit .357 after moving to second base while with the Chicago Cubs. Now with no real spot for him on the big league roster, his name was, again, floated in trade talks.

While Yankees brass held onto him heading into the Spring, it seemed as though Refsnyder’s days in pinstripes were numbered. Used to facing adversity in the past, both he and the coaching staff decided that, since there was no backup third baseman behind Chase Headley, Refsnyder should try his hand at the hot corner.

So far, so good. Not only has he continued to hit (16 at-bats, .250/.333/.313, four hits, three runs scored, three stolen bases), but Refsnyder has shown flashes of potential at third base.

So good, in fact, that it looks like Refsnyder has a good chance at making the Opening Day roster. Originally pegged as the heir apparent at second base, it then looked like Refsnyder was as good as gone. However, his willingness to do whatever it takes should be a great sign to Yankees fans – and because of his hard work, he will finally get his chance to shine on the big stage.

Dan Federico is the Managing Editor and Staff Writer for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter or contact him via email here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email