May
02

RAB Live Chat

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Categories : Chats
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(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Two weeks ago the Yankees and Rays played a wild four-game series in Tampa, a series that included three blowouts and one 12-inning affair. They split the four games. The division rivalry now shifts to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays are 13-16 with a -10 run differential overall, leaving them tied for last place in the AL East. They swept a doubleheader from the Red Sox yesterday but have still lost six of their last nine games and 11 of their last 17 games. Tampa is definitely down right now. Time to start kicking.

Offense
At 4.15 runs per game with a team 105 wRC+, the Rays have been a slightly above-average offense so far this year. They were really struggling to score the last time these two clubs met and the Yankees’ pitching staff was kind enough to help them out of that funk. Tampa does not have any position players on the DL but OF David DeJesus (103 wRC+) is nursing a sore shoulder and has been limited to DH duties for about a week now.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Through the first month of the season, manager Joe Maddon has been getting excellent production from OF Matt Joyce (154 wRC+), OF Desmond Jennings (139 wRC+), 1B James Loney (134 wRC+), and 2B Ben Zobrist (129 wRC+). I’m not sure I’m ready to live in a world where James Loney is a productive big leaguer. 3B Evan Longoria (106 wRC+) is off to an un-Longoria-like start but he always kills the Yankees. He has hit the most homers at the new Yankee Stadium among visiting players.

The Rays have not gotten much from OF Wil Myers (87 wRC+) and SS Yunel Escobar (78 wRC+) so far, though Escobar hit a monster solo homer off Koji Uehara to win last night’s game. C Ryan Hanigan (127 wRC+) has been the more productive half of the catching platoon with C Jose Molina (-4 wRC+). UTIL Sean Rodriguez (175 wRC+) has been really good in limited playing time, UTIL Logan Forsythe (44 wRC+) not so much. OF Brandon Guyer (-14 wRC+) rounds out the bench. Tampa has only stolen nine bases this year, the third fewest in MLB, so this isn’t the run crazy Rays team we’ve seen for most of the last decade.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. TB) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Price, 28, has been alternating good starts with not good starts all season (he’s due for a good one, if the trend continues). He owns a 4.75 ERA (3.49 FIP) in six starts and 41.2 innings this year, though his strikeout (10.15 K/9 and 27.2 K%) and walk (1.08 BB/9 and 2.9 BB%) rates are elite. The homer (1.51 HR/9 and 15.9 HR/FB%) and ground ball (40.5%) numbers … not so much. Lefties (.345 wOBA) are uncharacteristically giving him a harder time than righties (.323 wOBA) early on. Price throws his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-to-upper-80s cutter roughly 70% of the time combined. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his secondary offerings. The Yankees scored six runs in five innings against the 2012 AL Cy Young winner two weeks ago. Last time out, Price allowed eight runs in six innings to the White Sox.

Odorizzi. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Odorizzi. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Saturday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
The Rays have been adding one young stud pitcher to their rotation per year for what feels like seven or eight years now, but the 24-year-old Odorizzi is a sign times have changed. He has a 6.85 ERA (4.44 FIP) in five starts and 23.2 innings, and he generally isn’t expected to be much more than a back-end starter. The strikeout rate (8.37 K/9 and 20.0 K%) is good, but the walk (4.56 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%), homer (1.14 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (39.2%) rates are not. Righties (.400 wOBA) have crushed him early on, lefties (.363 wOBA) slightly less so. Odorizzi does throw four different pitches, including a low-90s heater, a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and a low-70s curveball. The changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees did not face Odorizzi in Tampa two weeks ago and he’s failed to complete five innings in each of his last two starts (four runs in 4.1 innings, four runs in 3.1 innings)

Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
You know the Rays are out of young pitchers when Bedard is in their rotation. The 35-year-old has a 5.52 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 14.2 innings across three starts and one relief appearance so far. He’s walked exactly as many men as he’s struck out (6.14 per nine and 14.1%) and, despite a low ground ball rate (36.7%), he’s yet to allow a dinger. Bedard has had no platoon split whatsoever early on. An upper-80s fastball sets up his mid-70s changeup and trademark mid-70s curveball. Bedard allowed four runs in 3.2 innings against the Yankees two weeks ago, though he held the Red Sox to one run in five innings last time out.

Bell. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

Bell. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Yesterday was a rough day for the Rays bullpen in terms of their workload: they threw 8.1 scoreless innings. Both closer RHP Grant Balfour (6.28 FIP) and setup man LHP Jake McGee (1.92 FIP) pitched in both ends of the doubleheader, so they might not be available tonight. In fact, the only relievers who didn’t pitch yesterday are RHP Heath Bell (4.26 FIP) and RHP Josh Lueke (4.33 FIP).

The rest of Maddon’s bullpen features RHP Joel Peralta (4.06 FIP), RHP Brandon Gomes (3.80 FIP), and RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (2.43 FIP). Oviedo is the pitcher formerly known as Marlins closer Leo Nunez. If Balfour is unavailable tonight, I’m guessing Peralta will be the closer du jour. The Yankees were off on Monday and rained out on Wednesday, so their bullpen is in good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details, then check out The Process Report for the best Rays analysis out there.

Categories : Series Preview
Comments (10)

Only six questions this week — not including yesterday’s Mark Teixeira question — but they’re good ones. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Mads asks: Might the injury to Michael Pineda be a blessing in disguise? If the Yankees were to make it deep into the playoffs, he would still be available to them, since he hasn’t reached his innings limit. So it might not be so bad that he is out for a couple of weeks.

Maybe. We said the same thing about Bartolo Colon‘s hamstring injury a few years ago, but he came off the DL and wasn’t nearly as effective. He admitted to being apprehensive about cutting it loose after getting hurt. There’s always a chance Pineda will come off the DL and not be the same pitcher, so who knows if he’ll even be worthy of a rotation spot late in the season? His injury is a concern given its proximity to his surgically repaired shoulder too. The Yankees definitely needed to monitor Pineda’s workload this season but now it’s out of their hands for at least a few weeks. It might help keep him fresh deep into September and possibly October, sure, but there’s also a chance it completely derails his season.

Dan asks: Looking back on it now, since we have at least a little bit of a contribution to point to from Pineda, and also the hope of more to come, would you prefer the deal that brought in Pineda over the failed one for Cliff Lee the year before? I mean, Zach McAllister still was sent away in a complete waste of a trade for Austin Kearns, and David Adams is still David Adams. I don’t really know to be honest. Is it still too early to tell?

As the story goes, the Yankees and Mariners had agreed to a trade that would have sent Lee to New York back in July 2010. Jesus Montero, David Adams, and Zach McAllister were the package going to Seattle. However, Adams was still on the mend from his traumatic ankle injury at the time, and the Mariners balked once they reviewed his medicals. They asked for Eduardo Nunez instead and the Yankees weren’t happy they reneged after essentially having a handshake agreement in place. They said no and that was that.

The Yankees had the best record in baseball at the time of the non-trade and they had just won the World Series the year before, so they were still a league superpower with legit championship aspirations. They eventually lost the ALCS to Lee and his new Rangers teammates. Obviously we have no idea how things would have played out had the Yankees landed the southpaw, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say their chances of winning the World Series would have gone from very good to super duper good.

Because of that, I would have rather made that deal than the Pineda deal. It doesn’t have anything to do with Pineda’s shoulder and his recent back issue. The Yankees were on the cusp of a second straight AL pennant without Lee and he could have put them over the top. I’m in favor of adding the impact player when you’re that close to a title. Lee would have only been a rental and Pineda may potential be a good long-term piece for the Yankees, but flags fly forever. Remember: we’re tryin’ to win a ring around here.

Kerwin asks: Can you explain why CC Sabathia has such a distaste for Jackie Bradley Jr.? Is there history between the two?

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Hah, I have no idea but it seems mostly harmless and kinda funny. I think it stems from Opening Day 2013, when Bradley went 0-for-1 with two walks against Sabathia. CC appeared to call him a “punk ass motherf**ker” after striking him out in a game later in the season, and since them he’s always seemed to have disdain for Bradley. Last week Sabathia hit him with a pitch — it looked like a breaking ball that got away, so not intentional — and then gave him a mouthful after Bradley stared him down. I don’t know how or why it started, but Sabathia’s beef with Bradley seems like a real thing. For what it’s worth, Bradley is 0-for-8 with those two walks and five strikeouts against CC, so maybe the big lefty is in his head.

New Guy asks: Any updates on Andrew Bailey? I know he’s a David Aardsma type reclamation project, but man. Sure would be nice if he could give the pen a boost later in the year.

The last update I saw on Bailey came way back in the middle of March, when it was reported he was playing catch from 90 feet and hoped to stretch it out to 120 feet within the next week. Hopefully he’s done that by now. Bailey had his shoulder capsule repaired in late-July and it comes with a year-long rehab process. Usually longer, but maybe his rehab will be shorter because he’s only a reliever. The Yankees have maintained that if he does pitch this year, it probably won’t be until September. The structure of his contract — minor league deal with a club option for 2015 — indicates the signing was made with an eye on next year, similar to the Jon Lieber and Aardsma signings a few years ago.

Chris asks: Any thought at a run at Mark Buehrle? He would come cheaper than Cliff Lee. No?

I have to imagine Buehrle would come cheaper, yes. He’s off to a very strong start this year (2.25 ERA and 3.21 FIP), but he’ll revert back to the same ol’ Mark Buehrle once his 2.6 HR/FB% rate returns to its career norms (~10%). His strikeout and walk rates are the same as they always were. Buehrle is owed $18M this season and $19M next season, so he’s not cheap, plus the Blue Jays have made it clear they don’t like trading within the division unless they’re blown away. Maybe that isn’t the case with Buehrle and they’d just be happy to shed his salary. Buehrle isn’t great but he’s pretty reliable and would be an upgrade for the Yankees. I just don’t know if acquiring him from an AL East rival is all that realistic.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Donny asks: After seeing Yangervis Solarte go through his first mini-slump of the season and reading/hearing analysts describe teams pitching him differently with more offspeed stuff, it got me wondering: what does the pitch f/x data look like now compared to the beginning of the season? Does this data support those analyses? Or is this simply a hot bat normalizing to the player Solarte actually is?

Anecdotally, it seemed like Solarte was starting to see more offspeed pitches in the middle of last month, after teams got a look at him and realized they would need something more than a fastball to get him out. After going 12-for-28 (.429) to start the season, Solarte has gone only 12-for-51 (.235) since. The good news is that he is still walking and making contact — 2/2 K/BB in the first eight games, 11/10 K/BB since — so he hasn’t been completely lost at the plate.

Yangervis played 22 games prior to last night — couldn’t wait around for the various PitchFX sites to update overnight, so last night’s game is not included in the table below — and let’s break his season down into two seven game segments and one eight game segment to see how he’s being pitched. Courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

All Counts Solarte Ahead Pitcher Ahead
FB% OFF% FB% OFF% FB% OFF%
Games 1-7 51.2% 48.8% 75.0% 25.0% 22.2% 77.8%
Games 8-14 66.4% 33.6% 89.5% 10.5% 57.6% 42.4%
Games 14-22 68.2% 31.8% 69.8% 30.2% 61.0% 39.0%

Obligatory reminder that we are talking about very small samples here, so don’t take these numbers to heart. We’re just looked at them for fun.

Anyway, contrary to the theory that he was seeing more offspeed stuff, pitchers have generally thrown Solarte more fastballs as the season has progressed. The pitch type linear weights at FanGraphs show Yangervis has been most effective against curveballs and sliders and least effective against the various fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, sinker, cutter), so I guess it makes sense that pitchers are throwing him fewer breaking balls in recent weeks. Solarte has trouble with the heat, it seems. What did we ever do before we could look this stuff up? Hooray facts.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (29)

We have two guests this week, plus Mike returns to the podcast after a stint on the DL.

Mike and I discuss the state of the pitching staff, with Michael Pineda headed for the DL and Ivan Nova lost for the season. The Yankees do have a few holes on the roster, which leads to a very premature discussion of potential moves they can make.

Then Jay and I talk to ESPN’s Keith Law about some pine tar (and vaseline, and Crisco), Masahiro Tanaka, and of course plenty of Yanks minor league stuff.

Finally we have Tommy Rancel from The Process Report to talk about the upcoming Rays series. The season hasn’t gone quite as expected for the boys in Tampa, but as Tommy explains they do have some hope in the coming weeks. Thankfully, they still have Erik Bedard starting in this series.

Podcast run time :

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If you’re on Android, the feed should be updating in major podcast apps. (I know it has shown up in BeyondPod for me.)

As always, we appreciate any feedback you have.

Categories : Podcast
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According to the Twitter feed of OF Kendall Coleman, LHP Ian Clarkin is on his way to join Low-A Charleston. No word on when he will make his first start, but it should be within a day or two. Clarkin was the third of the Yankees’ three first rounders last year.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 win over Norfolk)

  • LF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 3 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — 14 hits in his last 33 at-bats (.424), plus he’s doubled in four straight games
  • 3B Scott Sizemore: 2-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – hard to think he’d be worse than Brian Roberts
  • SS Dean Anna: 1-5
  • DH Zoilo Almonte: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 39 of 68 pitches were strikes (57%) 23 of 35 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB – ten of 19 pitches were strikes (53%)
  • RHP Matt Daley: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB – eight pitches, seven strikes

Read More→

Categories : Down on the Farm
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* Pending the outcome of the June 2nd make up of Wednesday’s rainout, of course.

Off-day, rainout, whatever. The Yankees’ offense continued to struggle on Thursday night and the result was a 4-2 loss to the Mariners. They have scored more than three runs once in their last five games. Not nearly enough to win in this ballpark with this pitching staff.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

No Felix? No Problem
It’s a good thing the rainout pushed Felix Hernandez out of the series, huh? Instead, the Yankees faced rookie lefty Roenis Elias, who pitched about as well as Felix as probably would have. Ten strikeouts and two runs (one earned) in seven innings, plus another seven outs on the ground. The only hard-hit ball I can remember was Jacoby Ellsbury‘s homer to leadoff the very first inning. Wasn’t much solid contact after that, if any.

The Yankees pushed their second run across in the sixth inning thanks to a weird two-out error by Robinson Cano, who flipped to second for the force out even though the shortstop wasn’t at the bag. Mark Teixeira beat out the relay to first to extend the inning, then Brian McCann beat the shift with a run-scoring single the other way. All of that happened with two outs. The Bombers left two runners on base in the second and that’s pretty much the only other time they threatened.

Through their first 14 home games this season, the Yankees have scored a total of 47 runs. That’s pretty awful. They’ve scored 65 runs in their 13 road games, for comparison. That just seems like a fluke/small sample size thing than something meaningful — especially since they have a higher AVG, OBP, and OPS+ at home than on the road disregard, I’m an idiot — but it’s still pretty annoying. This club should rake at home. Instead, they got manhandled by Elias and Chris Young. Yuck.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Death by Defense
Hiroki Kuroda was far from great on Thursday night — four runs (three earned) in six innings pretty much defines mediocrity — but he was obviously way better than last time out, though that isn’t saying much. The defense behind him was particularly terrible, as the infield essentially gave the Mariners five outs in the second inning. First Derek Jeter booted a routine leadoff grounder, then they failed to turn a double play, which extended the inning and allowed a run to score.

Kuroda gave up a run in the first inning when Cano doubled on a pitch that was a good six inches off the plate inside (we’ve seen him drill that pitch into the corner for nine years now) and then things kinda came apart in the fourth inning when Brad Miller singled in front of Brett Gardner and Michael Saunders clubbed a ground rule double the other way. Kuroda allowed seven hits but he also struck out seven, including three of the final six batters he faced. His last two innings were awesome, but by then it was too late.

Joe Girardi pulled Kuroda after six innings and 94 pitches because they said they were going to take it easy on him this year. He’s essentially on the Andy Pettitte plan — rarely throwing more than 100 pitches or going out for that one extra batter or two — which is a smart move given his age. Kuroda’s offspeed stuff still isn’t cooperating but seven strikeouts and ten ground balls out of 26 batters faced is encouraging. The infield defense is just a nightmare. That said, results are all that matters and Kuroda isn’t getting them.

(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts were actually the only players who failed to reach base. Beltran is an 0-for-15 slump. Gardner didn’t have a hit but he did draw a walk. Everyone else in the lineup had exactly one hit and the only player to reach base twice was Teixeira. He singled and walked. Maybe it’s time to bat Gardner leadoff, Ellsbury third, Teixeira cleanup, and push everyone else down a notch? Could be cool. Also, there’s this guy named Kelly Johnson on the bench who might have something to offer.

The bullpen did a fine job in relief of Kuroda, as the trio of Matt Thornton, Adam Warren, and Shawn Kelley retired eight of nine batters faced. The only exception was a ground ball single through the shift off Thornton. Meh. It happens. The relievers gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. Can’t ask them for much more.

Ellsbury’s dinger was his first as a Yankee and his 11th career leadoff homer. It was the team’s first leadoff homer since August 2012. No, they didn’t hit one at all last season. Fun Fact: This year’s team is on pace to hit fewer homers (138) than last year’s (144). That’ll change once the weather warms up. I hope.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. You can find some more stats and the updated standings at FanGraphs and ESPN, respectively. The Yankee are 1-4 against the Astros and Mariners this year. Good job.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Rays are coming to town for a three-game series as the Yankees wrap-up their homestand. Lefties Vidal Nuno and David Price will be on the mound Friday night. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that marquee pitching matchup in person.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (70)
May
01

Game 27: No Felix

By in Game Threads. · Comments (384) ·
(Elsa/Getty)

(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees caught a really big break yesterday. The rainout not only gave their key bullpen pieces another day of rest, but it also pushed Felix Hernandez out of the series. The Mariners opted to use the impromptu off-day to give their rotation extra rest, so Wednesday’s scheduled starter Roenis Elias will get the ball tonight while Felix pitches against whoever Seattle faces next tomorrow night. Now the Yankees just have to take advantage.

Hiroki Kuroda is on the bump for New York and his last start was a total disaster: eight runs on ten hits in only 4.2 innings. Ivan Nova is done for the year and Michael Pineda isn’t coming back for at least a month, so the team needs Kuroda to shake off his inconsistent start and get back to being the guy he was early last season. He doesn’t even need to be that good. He just needs to be better than he has been. I have faith in Kuroda and think he’ll turn it around soon enough. Preferably tonight. Here is the Mariners lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsburyguess the sore left hand is fine
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alfonso Soriano
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. C Brian McCann
  7. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  8. LF Brett Gardner
  9. 2B Brian Roberts
    RHP Hiroki Kuroda

After a torrential downpour yesterday and into this morning, the sky is blue and there is no rain in sight. They won’t have any trouble getting the game in tonight. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Enjoy.

Rotation Update: The rotation for this weekend’s series against the Rays will be Vidal Nuno (Friday), Masahiro Tanaka (Saturday), and CC Sabathia (Sunday), the Yankees announced. David Phelps threw an 80 or so pitch simulated game yesterday and will start on Monday.

Brendan Ryan Update: Ryan (back) has moved up to Double-A Trenton to continue his rehab. The team has said they want him to get 40-50 at-bats after missing Spring Training and right now he’s at 17 rehab plate appearances. Sure seems like he’s lined up to be activated off the DL on Tuesday, when Michael Pineda’s suspension expires and the Yankees get back to a normal 25-man roster.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (384)
May
01

2014 Draft: Cameron Varga

By in Draft. Tags: · Comments (8) ·

Cameron Varga | RHP

Background
Varga is from Ohio and he attends Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. He is a recently converted shortstop who originally committed to Florida but has since changed his commitment to UNC. Varga was unable to pitch in showcase events last summer, first due to a minor biceps issue and later due to a cyst in his abdomen that had to be surgically removed.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-3 and 205 lbs., Varga is a big kid who will run his sinking two-seam fastball as high as the mid-90s. It usually sits in the low-90s. Both his curveball and changeup have shown the potential to be above-average pitches down the road, but right now they are both in need of refinement. Varga is a good athlete but there is a lot of effort in his delivery, which hinders command. Because of the biceps problem and the cyst, scouts went about nine months without seeing Varga until his senior season started a few weeks ago.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Varga as the 16th best prospect in the draft class while both MLB.com and Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked him as the 47th best prospect. Varga draws a lot of split opinions for two reasons: one, the injuries. Fair enough. Two, he will turn 20 in August and is one of the oldest high school prospects in the draft. No one checks IDs on the mound though, and if you catch him on the right day, Varga could look like a future ace with multiple out pitches. The Yankees don’t pick until the second round (55th overall) following their offseason signing spree.

Categories : Draft
Comments (8)
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

Robinson Cano returned to the Bronx as a visiting player for the first time Tuesday night. It was kinda weird. When he defected to the Mariners over the winter, it left the Yankees with a blank canvas at second base. I mean a really, really blank canvas. The team did not have a big league ready second base prospect to step into the lineup, hence the Brian Roberts, Scott Sizemore, and Dean Anna pickups. Those guys are the definition of stopgaps. They were added to play second base because the rules say someone has to do it.

True second base prospects are not all that common — most big league second basemen are failed shortstops. Cano is a failed shortstop, as are Roberts and Dustin Pedroia and Aaron Hill and pretty much every other second baseman. It’s the least-premium premium position, if that makes sense. The Yankees came into the season with two good but not great second base prospects, with the most notable being Gosuke Katoh following his huge pro debut last summer. This year has not been so kind to him, however.

The other good second base prospect is 23-year-old Rob Refsnyder, the team’s fifth round pick in 2012. I ranked him as their 27th best prospect back in February after he hit .293/.413/.413 (~143 wRC+) with 32 doubles, 23 steals, and more walks (84) than strikeouts (82) in 573 plate appearances split between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa last season. Refsnyder got off to a brutally slow start at Double-A Trenton this year (5-for-35 with 15 strikeouts), but he has gone 18-for-51 (.353) with seven walks and five strikeouts in 14 games since. His season batting line now sits at .267/.344/.384 (109 wRC+), and, according to Baseball Reference, he is 1.6 years younger than the average Double-A player.

Refsnyder’s backstory alone makes him pretty interesting. He was born in South Korea and adopted by a family in Orange County when he was only three months old. He played second base in high school, moved to the outfield at the University of Arizona, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series en route to helping the Wildcats win the 2012 National Championship. Pretty neat. Baseball America ranked Refsnyder as the 29th best prospect in New York’s system in their 2014 Prospect Handbook, and here is a snippet of their scouting report:

Refsnyder has enough athleticism to become an average defender at the position in time, but he needs plenty of repetitions. He’s a smart, above-average runner, but not a burner … He’s an extremely patient hitter (who) recognizes spin well and knows when and how to go with a pitch. Refsnyder sprays line drives all over the field and has the ability to keep the head of the bat in the zone for a long time. He doesn’t get much lift, so he’s not going to hit more than 10-12 home runs going forth.

We aren’t talking about the next Cano here. Cano was a second year big leaguer when he was Refsnyder’s age, not a first year Double-A player. Refsnyder’s strengths are a potentially solid glove, his knowledge of the strike zone, his ability to differentiate pitches, and his ability drive the ball to all fields. Here is his 2013-14 spray chart, if you need a visual. (MLB Farm is a truly excellent site, by the way.) That is a pretty promising skillset even if it doesn’t make for the sexiest prospect ever.

Any time a player gets to the Double-A level and has success, especially a player drafted out of a major college program, he puts himself on the map for a potential big league role. Obviously the season is very young and Refsnyder still has another 120-something games left in his season, but I’m encouraged he shook off the really poor start and has started to hit like he did last year. The Double-A level has always been something of a separator between actual potential big leaguers and regular ol’ prospects. You know what I mean. Refsnyder is starting to separate himself a bit.

The perfect world scenario would see Refsnyder dominate Double-A these next few weeks, earn a midseason promotion, dominate Triple-A, and open 2015 as the team’s regular second baseman, but I don’t know how realistic that is. It’s a tad aggressive. The Cardinals had a top notch second base prospect in Kolten Wong ready to take over this year and they still added a veteran backup plan in Mark Ellis over the winter. (Wong hasn’t hit a lick and was just demoted to Triple-A, but that’s besides the point.) Copying the Cardinals is not a bad idea. Signing another stopgap veteran and letting Refsnyder force his way into the lineup seems like reasonable 2015 plan to me.

Thanks to that blank canvas Cano left behind, the Yankees have a very clear opening for Refsnyder in the near future. The potential is there for him to be a solid and cheap bottom of the lineup option, something others like David Adams and Corban Joseph failed to become for different reasons. I hesitate to use Brett Gardner as a comparison for Refsnyder because Gardner turned into one hell of a player, but the idea is similar. An unheralded mid-round pick who comes up through the system and develops into a strong complementary player. I’d take that from Refsnyder in a heartbeat, and he isn’t all that far away from entering the big league second base picture.

Categories : Minors
Comments (100)
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