Archive for Rob Refsnyder

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline is roughly 48 hours away, and based on the way he’s been talking the last few days, it seems likely Brian Cashman will swing another trade or two in an attempt to improve the team. Another starting pitcher feels inevitable, and they’ve been connected to a bunch of right-handed hitting outfielders as well. Those two upgrades are the bare minimum to make a run in the second half, in my opinion.

The Chase Headley trade solidified the infield, at least in the sense that they replaced a collection of bad players at the hot corner with one potentially good one. Headley’s first week in pinstripes has gone very well — 9-for-27 (.333) with two doubles, a homer, and a walk-off single — and hopefully that continues through the end of the season now that he’s out of Petco Park and doesn’t have to be The Man in the lineup. The upgrade on defense has already been noticeable as well.

The Yankees are locked into Derek Jeter at shortstop and Mark Teixeira at first base for a few reasons, and so far they’ve lived with Brian Roberts at second. In fact, I wouldn’t even say they’ve “lived” with him, they seem legitimately happy to have him out there. Roberts has somehow managed to stay healthy and he always puts together a long and quality at-bat, which is not nothing. Given how hacktastic this lineup has become, seeing someone who doesn’t go down on two or three pitches each time out is refreshing.

The problem is that Roberts’ long at-bats have not led to enough production. He is hitting a weak .237/.300/.360 (81 wRC+) in 348 plate appearances this year, including an even weaker .226/.281/.352 (72 wRC+) in 171 plate appearances since June 1st. Roberts was steady in the field earlier this season but has been much worse defensively of late, making three errors in ten games since the All-Star break and bobbling just about everything that isn’t hit right at him. He’s a liability both at the plate and in the field right now.

Remarkably, Roberts have remained pretty healthy this season. He missed a few games with a minor back issue in April but that’s it. His 91 games played are his most since 2009, his last full, healthy season. Given his age and his lengthy injury history, it could be that he is simply wearing down in the second half of the season. That would explain the lack of hitting and reliable fielding. It’s tough to expect a 36-year-old who has averaged 48 games and 202 plate appearances per year over the last four years to be an everyday player across a full season.

Soon after the Headley trade, Brian Cashman told reporters that while he is looking to make big upgrades to the roster at the trade deadline, he is making smaller, incremental upgrades whenever possible. “We have to try to improve, reinforce and upgrade, certainly,” said the GM to Andrew Marchand last week. “We certainly we would love to have some significant upgrades but when you lose four out of five starters, it is hard to re-materialize the same type of abilities with the guys you lost. It is whether you incrementally upgrade.”

(Scranton Times-Tribune)

(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Unlike the rotation and right field, the Yankees may be able to make an incremental upgrade at second base without having to make a trade. Second base prospect Rob Refsnyder — who you have all heard about by now — is stashed in Triple-A, hitting .296/.400/.500 (151 wRC+) with seven homers in 44 games and 190 plate appearances with the RailRiders after dominating with Double-A Trenton early in the season. He has cooled down of late but still has a solid .250/.327/.427 (108 wRC+) batting line this month. When a young player hits like that, you have to take notice, especially when he plays a position of need, both short and long-term.

Despite his Triple-A success, Cashman made it clear he doesn’t believe Refsnyder would be enough of an upgrade to justify calling him up and dropping Roberts. “I don’t think he would be significantly upgrading at second base right now … If you did see [Refsnyder], he would be probably more likely an outfielder for us. It’s a super big jump to the big league level,” said Cashman during a radio interview last week. He also pointed out the 40-man roster issue — Refsnyder won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another year and they don’t want to clog up the 40-man roster, though that seems like a lame excuse more than anything. I don’t think a 40-man spot would stand in the way of helping the MLB club.

Now, here’s the thing: I’m not completely sold on the idea of Refsnyder being an upgrade over Roberts either. The defensive question marks at second are real, and Refsnyder struggled immediately after being promoted to both Double-A and Triple-A this year. That’s not unusual, Brett Gardner had the same problem while he was climbing up the minor league leader, but it is something to consider. The whole “how could he be any worse/what’s the harm?” argument is totally silly because Refsnyder could absolutely be worse than Roberts, just like David Adams was worse than Kevin Youkilis and Austin Romine was worse than Chris Stewart. It could always be worse.

At this point though, I think Roberts has forced the team’s hand and given them every reason to try someone new at second base. He isn’t hitting and he hasn’t been reliable in the field. When a player’s only redeeming quality is the ability to foul off pitches and have long at-bats, it’s time to try someone new. Roberts is about to start making some decent bucks through bonuses — he has already banked $350,000 in incentives and is two plate appearances away from another $250,0000 — so there is a financial incentive to make a change as well. The Yankees would pay Refsnyder through the end of the season less than the bonus they’d owe Roberts if he gets those next two plate appearances.

I would like to think being pulled for a pinch-hitter last night was the team’s way of preventing Roberts from triggering that next bonus under the guise of improving their chances to win, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case. The Yankees love their veterans and seem to think Roberts has some very real value to the team, but I don’t see it. Not at this point. He isn’t hitting and he isn’t fielding. When all the GM talks about are incremental upgrades and you’ve got a this sort of second base situation at the MLB and Triple-A levels, I don’t know how they don’t make a move. Refsnyder might not produce when he gets called up. It’s a very real possibility. But we know Roberts isn’t producing. That part isn’t up for debate. If they’re not going to make a change now, when will they?

Categories : Players
Comments (179)

The Yankees are averaging only 3.48 runs per game over the last calendar month. They’ve been held to two runs or less ten times in 27 games during that stretch. Even if Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann start hitting as expected, the Yankees would still be running out a lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, Ichiro Suzuki/Alfonso Soriano, and Kelly Johnson/Yangervis Solarte on a regular basis. That’s way too many soft spots. The Bombers need to add some thump to the lineup before the trade deadline even if McCann and Beltran show up to the park and start raking tomorrow.

The Yankees are locked into players at catcher, first base, shortstop, left field, center field, and designated hitter either by contract status or iconic status. There is nothing they can do at those positions other than hope for more production, so, the only spots they can make real changes are second base, third base, and right field. The trade market has yet to develop but the Yankees do actually have some internal options if they want to shake things up. They aren’t future stars or the sexiest names, but they might be upgrades. Here are those internal options with their 2014 PECOTA projections because why not? No one knows what to expect from them at the MLB level and this gives us a point of reference.

Pirela in winter ball. (v)

Pirela in winter ball. (zonadeportiva.net)

UTIL Jose Pirela (PECOTA: .254/.307/.394)
The 24-year-old Pirela has been in the farm system so long that he became a six-year minor league free agent this past winter. The Yankees re-signed him and he is now hitting .320/.361/.466 (130 wRC+) with seven homers and ten steals in 304 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton, his first extended stint at the level after spending most of 2011-13 with Double-A Trenton. He hit .281/.355/.430 (~120 wRC+) with Trenton while repeating the level from 2012-13.

Pirela is a classic stats over scouting report guy. He didn’t hit much in the lower minors but broke out during the 2012 season (123 wRC+). It seemed fishy at the time because he was repeating the level, but he has continued to hit this summer at Triple-A, where he has only five games of prior experience. Pirela has always had an interesting enough bat but he is a poor defender. Eduardo Nunez bad. Well, maybe not that bad, but bad. He moved off shortstop for good in 2012 and has spent most of his time at second base and left field since.

After starting the season as the RailRiders’ everyday second baseman, Pirela has spent just about this entire month in left field while mixing in the occasional start at first base, a position he had never played before this year. (The move off second was prompted by Rob Refsnyder’s arrival.) Unless the Yankees are going to stick Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury in right field — Gardner played one game there earlier this season and it was ugly — Pirela only fits at second base. Either that or move him to right for the first time in his life.

2B Rob Refsnyder (PECOTA: .235/.319/.344)
I’ve written about Refsnyder on more than one occasion this season, so I’m going to keep this short. The 23-year-old has hit .292/.404/.458 (145 wRC+) in his first 14 Triple-A games after tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A and really his entire pro career before that. Refsnyder might not be the team’s best hope for a long-term Robinson Cano replacement (Gosuke Katoh and Angelo Gumbs are among those in the system with higher ceilings), but he is the closest to the show and will get the first crack at the job. His defense is the issue; Refsnyder still needs to improve at second after playing the outfield in college.

UTIL Zelous Wheeler (PECOTA: .245/.316/.390)
The Yankees signed the 27-year-old Wheeler as a minor league free agent over the winter, mostly because they had a need at third base and he has a ton of experience there. Plus it didn’t hurt that he put up decent numbers at the Double-A and Triple-A levels the last few seasons (~106 wRC+). Bring him to Spring Training then see what happens in Triple-A type of deal.

Wheeler. (AP)

Wheeler. (AP)

Wheeler has put up an impressive .308/.365/.469 (134 wRC+) batting line with six homers in 59 games with Triple-A Scranton while playing all over the field — he’s played at least ten games each at third base, shortstop, and right field. He’s also spent time at second base throughout the years. Wheeler was never a top prospect — he failed to crack Baseball America’s top 30 lists in some pretty bad Brewers’ systems a few years ago, for what it’s worth — but he’s versatile and he’s hitting well at the highest level of the minors. That could be enough to get him a call-up given the current state of the roster.

OF Zoilo Almonte (PECOTA: .252/.300/.419)
Almonte, 25, has had two cups of coffee with the Yankees since last year and they haven’t been particularly impressive (50 wRC+), but he continues to hit at Triple-A, putting up a .268/.314/.455 (111 wRC+) line with ten homers in 223 plate appearances this year. Zoilo absolutely can not hit lefties (.394 OPS vs. LHP at Triple-A this year) despite being a switch-hitter, so his only value comes as the left-handed half of a right field platoon. The Yankees already have Ichiro doing on okay job in that role, but Ichiro hits lefties better than righties and Almonte could give them more power from the position.

IF Scott Sizemore (PECOTA: .245/.330/.392)
Like Almonte, the 29-year-old Sizemore has been up and down a few times this year, going 5-for-16 (.313) in pinstripes while hitting .265/.327/.387 (99 wRC+) with three homers in 226 Triple-A plate appearances. He has had to shake off the rust after missing nearly two full years with a pair of knee surgeries. Sizemore has destroyed minor league lefties in a limited sample this year (.880 OPS), which matches up with his career 122 wRC+ against MLB southpaws before the knee problems. He could serve as a right-handed platoon option at either second or third.

* * *

I don’t think the Yankees will cut ties with Roberts. He’s hit well enough over the last week or so and they seem to appreciate his long at-bats and veteran presence*. I don’t believe Soriano is safe though, and Solarte could always be optioned to Triple-A to clear another roster spot. It’s not like he’s done much with the bat over the last month anyway. Johnson has received some more playing time of late but could still go. Ichiro? Forget it. He’s on the roster until he decides to retire.

If the Yankees do decide to cut bait with Soriano, I think Pirela or Wheeler would be the best bests to replace him, preferably Pirela because he’s younger and might actually have a future with the team. Refsnyder needs more time to work on his defense and doesn’t offer the same kind of versatility. If they kick an infielder to the curb as well, I’d go with Pirela/Wheeler or Sizemore. That’s just my opinion. I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer here other than calling up Refsnyder and playing him twice a week. None of these guys are going to save the offense, but they could be an upgrade over what the team is running out there right now. The tricky part is figuring out which one will help the most.

* I resisted the “veteran presents” joke, but only this time!

Categories : Minors
Comments (63)
(MiLB.com)

(MiLB.com)

A little more than a month ago, I wrote about Rob Refsnyder and the long-term future of the second base position in the Bronx. The Yankees lost Robinson Cano and replaced him with the epitome of a stopgap in Brian Roberts, so the job is wide open going forward. By virtue of playing the position and starting the season at the Double-A level, Refsnyder is the logical candidate to get the first opportunity to be Cano’s long-term replacement.

At the time of that post, the 23-year-old Refsnyder was hitting .267/.344/.384 (109 wRC+) though 23 games with Double-A Trenton. He shook off a very slow start (5-for-35 with 15 strikeouts) and his numbers were climbing up towards respectability. Since that day, Refsnyder has gone an absurd 55-for-142 (.387) to raise his season batting line to .342/.385/.548 (158 wRC+) through 60 Double-A games. He had multiple hits in 15 of his last 17 games at the level. He was kinda hot.

The Yankees promoted Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday and he went 2-for-4 (of course) in his first game with the RailRiders, so the move up a level didn’t slow him down. The promotion was obviously well-deserved and the timing matches up perfectly with last season — Refsnyder was promoted to High-A Tampa after 59 games with Low-A Charleston in 2013. The Yankees let him spend two months at each level to get his feet wet before promoting him in each of his two pro seasons.

Now here’s something I wrote in that Refsnyder post early last month:

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.

Refsnyder clearly separated himself from the wannabe prospects in the weeks since that post, and at this point we have no choice but to talk about him as a potential big league option. Not just next year either, I mean later this season, after a few weeks in Triple-A. Cano played only 24 games in Triple-A before being called up in 2005 because Tony Womack was terrible. Roberts hasn’t been quite as bad as Womack, but he’s not someone the Yankees should hesitate to replace either.

Aside from position, Cano and Refsnyder have very little in common and are not at all comparable. It would be unfair to compare the two. Cano was a second year big leaguer when he was Refsnyder’s age, for example, so they have entirely different career paths. The better comparison — and again, I mentioned this last month — is probably Brett Gardner, who was also a mid-round draft pick who made it to Triple-A Scranton in the second half of his second full season. (Gardner was a third rounder, Refsnyder a fifth rounder.)

Gardner was blocked when he reached Triple-A in the second half of 2007. The MLB outfield at the time was Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, and young Melky Cabrera coming off a .360 OBP in 2006. Gardner had to sit in Triple-A until the middle of 2008 before getting a chance, and when he didn’t immediately produce, he was back in the minors. Refsnyder does not have the same kind of positional logjam standing between him and MLB. Roberts is as disposable as they come. A promotion depends on his performance more than anything.

For what it’s worth, PECOTA’s 50th percentile projection pegged Refsnyder as a .235/.319/.344 hitter at the MLB level coming into this season. That’s an estimate of his current talent level, not a prediction. Roberts went into last night’s game hitting .239/.317/.350 on the year, which is right in line with Refsnyder’s projection. Refsnyder’s defense is still a work in progress — he played second in high school and outfield in college, so he’s been back at the position for less than two full years — and if they’re going to hit roughly the same, Roberts is probably the better all-around option.

Of course, PECOTA didn’t know Refsnyder would tear the cover off the ball in Double-A for a few weeks. And, of course, projections don’t mean much of anything. The Yankees will have another few weeks to see how Refsnyder performs at Triple-A and another few weeks to see if Roberts can get on any kind of hot streak. If Refsnyder continues to hit and Roberts continues to do whatever he’s been doing most of the year, the only way the team could justify not making a switch is by saying Refsnyder needs more time to improve in the field (which he does).

The promotion to Triple-A puts Refsnyder on the cusp on MLB, and, given his progress to date, the time to give him a shot at the big league level is coming sooner rather than later.

Categories : Minors
Comments (122)
(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)

Only three questions this week, but the answers are kinda long. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week.

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

(Mike Zarrilli/Getty)

John asks: With all the talk of the Phillies trading people like Cliff Lee at the deadline, do you think the Yankees would be interested? Right now next year’s rotation is CC Sabathia and every one else is a question mark.

I think that depends entirely on whether the team tries to go through with the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax limit in 2014 in beyond. If they want to give it a shot, forget about Lee. If they scrap the whole plan — as has been rumored already — then yeah, I do think they would be interested. Brian Cashman & Co. seem to be enamored with the lefty, first trying to trade for him then trying to sign him as a free agent.

Lee, 34, is not the same pitcher he was a few years ago, but he’s still outstanding. Easily one of the top 15-20 starters in the game. His strikeout (7.25 K/9 and 20.1 K%) and ground ball (39.3%) rates have both been trending downward since he rejoined the Phillies, though he still doesn’t walk anyone (1.27 BB/9 and 3.5 BB%). Lee will earn $25M this year and in each of the next two years, plus his $27.5M vesting option for 2016 includes a $12.5M (!) buyout. Since we’re roughly one-fifth of the way through this year, that’s approximately $82.5M left on his contract if the option doesn’t vest.

If the Phillies eat say, $20-30M of that $82.5M, I think it would take a three- or four-player package to acquire Lee, and at least two of those players would have to be studs. He may be expensive, but he’s also really good. You won’t get him for free just because. Would Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Brett Marshall, and a fourth guy be enough? Maybe. Would I do it? Sure, especially if the Yankees plan on scrapping the 2014 payroll plan. The upgrade from Ivan Nova/David Phelps to Lee is legitimately four or five wins over a full season, and that’s the difference between baseball and golf and October given the rest of the AL East.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)

(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Mike asks: What would it take to acquire Nick Hundley? Seems to be Joe Girardi type of catcher, someone who does everything okay but nothing great.

I’m not sure if the Girardi comparison is accurate, but Hundley is a solid all-around catcher. He’s rebounded well this year (109 wRC+) after hitting miserably a year ago (29 wRC+), and he’s been close to a league average hitter overall (95 wRC+) since getting the job full-time in 2009. His defensive reputation is strong and he’s thrown out close to 32% of attempted base-stealers the last three years.

Hundley, 29, is under contract for just $7M between this year and next, which works out pretty well for the Yankees. Yasmani Grandal is the catcher of the future in San Diego, which could land Hundley on the trade block. Interestingly enough, Hundley recently called out Grandal — “You want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a good couple months on steroids, go ahead,” he said — which is kind of a jerk thing to do. Quality catchers are very hard to find, so two quality (but not elite) prospects seems like a reasonable asking price. Marshall and Ramon Flores for Hundley? I’d think hard about it.

(MiLB.com)

(MiLB.com)

Andrew asks: Can I get a scouting report (and your personal opinion) on Rob Refsnyder? The kid is absolutely mashing, and it’s been long enough this season to call it more than a fluke.

The Yankees gave Refsnyder a little less than $206k as their fifth round pick last summer, and all he’s done this year is mash. I’m talking .391/.490/.523 (~184 wRC+) in 153 plate appearances between Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa prior to last night’s game. Here’s a snippet of what Baseball America (subs. req’d) had to say before the draft:

Scouts like his bat and think he could be an average hitter. He’s always hitting — he holds his high school record for the highest career batting average and is a career .341 hitter over his three years with the Wildcats. The problem scouts have is that Refsnyder just doesn’t profile as a corner outfielder in pro ball because he has a flat swing that’s geared more for doubles than home runs. He’s an average runner with an average arm, so scouts who like the bat are interested in getting Refsnyder to move back to second base, a position he played in high school.

After playing the outfield during his pro debut last year, Refsnyder has played second base this year and he’s very much a work in progress at the position. He committed 12 errors in 29 games prior to last night, and although errors are hardly the best way to measure defensive competence, it’s an indication he’s a little rough around the edges. That’s not surprising, he didn’t play the position at all in college. He’ll need some time to adjust.

I see Refsnyder as a (very) rich man’s Mitch Hilligoss. He can hit and he knows what he’s doing at the plate, but he doesn’t offer a ton of power and doesn’t have a set position. Maybe that means he winds up a very good utility man who can play second, third, and both corner outfield spots, who knows. Obviously they should give him to time to work on things at second. Refsnyder is mashing so far, but he also came from a big-time college program and should mash Single-A pitchers. I’ll get more excited about the performance if he maintains it at the Double-A level. His season to date has been very exciting though.

Categories : Mailbag
Comments (46)

Starting this week and continuing through the end of the Spring Training, we’re going to preview the Yankees position-by-position and on a couple of different levels.

(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

Second base is one of the four premium up-the-middle positions, but it is the fourth-most important of those positions. It doesn’t require the athleticism of shortstop or center field or the pure toughness of catcher, nor does it require the arm strength — second baseman have the most time to make the routine play of any infielder. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a rough position because of the blind double play pivot, but it sorta is the black sheep of the up-the-middle spots. That said, second base is the highlight of the Yankees’ organization for a number of reasons.

The Starter
Robinson Cano isn’t just the best player on the Yankees, he’s the best second baseman in baseball and one of the very best players in the game period. The 30-year-old has hit .311/.370/.539 (142 wRC+) over the last three seasons and put up career-highs in doubles (48), homers (33), extra-base hits (82), ISO (.238), SLG (.550), walks (61), walk rate (8.8%), wOBA (.394), wRC+ (150), fWAR (7.8), and bWAR (8.2) last summer. It was his third consecutive MVP-caliber season and there’s really no reason to expect his performance to suddenly fall off a cliff in 2013. He might not be as amazingly awesome again, but there’s no obvious reason why he would be anything less that excellent.

In the field, Cano is dynamite gloveman in the eyes of DRS (+17 career), Total Zone (+43) and FRAA (+45.1), but not so much UZR (-30.2). Robbie doesn’t have the greatest range going to his left, but c’mon. That UZR stands out like a sore thumb because it doesn’t jibe with the eye test. He might not be as good as Total Zone and FRAA say, but Cano is clearly above-average defensively in my opinion. His range to his right is very good and his arm is a rocket, and when you add in the fact that he plays pretty much every single game year after year, you’ve got a two-way threat who is among the most dependable players in the world.

Cano’s performance in 2013 will be very important and not just to the Yankees given all the offense they lost over the winter. Robbie will be a free agent after the season and is in line for a mammoth nine-figure contract, and in fact Brian Cashman confirmed the club has already extended a “significant offer.” Scott Boras won’t go down that easily though, so expect contract talks to linger pretty much all season long. It will be the cloud hanging over the team all summer, kinda like CC Sabathia‘s opt-out clause two years ago. The off-field issue doesn’t diminish Cano’s on-field awesomeness or importance, however.

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Backup
The bench is still a few weeks away from being finalized, but the two obvious candidates are Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix. The 25-year-old Nunez is a defensive nightmare who has been working out at shortstop exclusively since last May, though Cashman did say he would return to a utility role if he makes the team. The speed and contact ability are certainly useful tools, useful tools that are negated (and then some) by the unusable defense.

Nix, 30, was solid in a limited role last year, mainly by hitting lefties (97 wRC+) and playing all over the field. He’s a second baseman by trade and a much better defender than Nunez, but no better than average overall. I don’t think it would be a surprise if either guy made the team as a reserve infielder, and heck, there’s even a scenario in which both make the team. Either way, the step down from Cano to either Nix or Nunez is enormous. Maybe the biggest drop-off from one player to their replacement in all of baseball.

Knocking on the Door
The Yankees are blessed with very good second base depth, including at the Triple-A level. Both 25-year-old David Adams and 24-year-old Corban Joseph are slated to begin the season with Triple-A Scranton and they’re cut from a similar cloth: bat-first players who are below-average defenders at second. Adams, a right-handed hitter, used to be a solid defender at the position but has lost a few steps following the massive ankle injury he suffered in 2010. Joseph, a left-handed hitter, has always been a below-average defender. Both guys can hit and are willing to walk though, making them very good depth pieces (and trade bait). Adams is dealing with a back injury and could miss the start of the season, which I guess makes Joseph first in line for a call-up.

(Post and Courier)

(Post and Courier)

The Top Prospect
One of New York’s best and most exciting prospects is second baseman Angelo Gumbs, who placed ninth on my preseason top 30 list. Still just 20 years old (with an October birthday!), the right-handed hitter signed for $750k as the team’s second round pick in 2010 and hit .268/.317/.428 (102 wRC+) with seven homers and 26 steals (in 29 attempts) in 278 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston last season. His season ended prematurely due to a partially torn elbow ligament, but he’s 100% healthy and even managed to squeeze in a few winter ball games. Gumbs stands out of his electric bat speed — best in the organization and among the best in minor league baseball — and athleticism, so he’s a premium breakout candidate for 2013 if healthy given his age. The Yankees will bump him up to High-A Tampa this year, so he won’t be a big league factor this summer unless he’s traded for an actual big leaguer.

The Deep Sleeper
Gumbs, Adams, and Joseph are exceptions — there just aren’t many true second base prospects throughout baseball. There aren’t as rare as true first base prospects, but most second base prospects are failed shortstops (like Cano). The Yankees don’t have a deep second base sleeper prospect, but they do have 2012 sixth rounder Rob Refsnyder. The 21-year-old followed up his College World Series Most Outstanding Player performance by hitting .247/.324/.370 (95 wRC+) with four homers and 11 steals (in 12 chances) in 182 plate appearances for Charleston last year. Although he played the outfield in his pro debut, the Yankees announced him as a second baseman at the draft and are expected to move him back there going forward. Refsnyder played the position in high school and would raise his long-term profile quite a bit if he shows he can handle second adequately. He’s not as good a prospect as the other three guys but he’s definitely interesting, hence his inclusion in my not top 30 prospects post.

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The Yankees have more quality depth at second base than at any other position, and it starts right at the top with Cano. He’s the team’s best and most important player heading into the 2013 season, after which he will sign a gigantic contract to either remain in pinstripes or leave the only organization he’s ever known. Adams and Joseph give New York legitimate alternatives in Triple-A if needed, and Gumbs boasts breakout potential despite already being one of the team’s better prospects. Second base is a major bright spot for the organization from top to bottom.

Other Previews: Catchers, First Basemen

Categories : Players
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Via Jim Callis, the Yankees have signed sixth round pick Rob Refsnyder for roughly $206k, the full slot value for the 187th overall pick. That leaves the Yankees with $1,606,300 worth of draft pool money to offer first rounder Ty Hensley without facing penalties. They can pay him up to $1,815,910 by exceeding their draft pool by 5%, which would result in a tax but not forfeiture of next year’s first rounder.

Refsynder, an outfielder at Arizona who the Yankees will try at second base, is a big-time contact hitter with a swing geared for doubles into the gaps rather than homers of the fence. He’s an average defensive player in the corner outfield and hasn’t played the middle infield regularly since high school. Refsnyder was recently named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player and is a pretty interesting conversion candidate as an offense-minded second baseman. You can see all of the Yankees’ picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation at our Draft Pool page.

Categories : Asides, Draft
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Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told Josh Norris that the Yankees are “close” to signing sixth rounder 2B/OF Rob Refsnyder, though the deal is not done yet. Refsnyder was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player two weeks ago after leading his Arizona Wildcats to the national championship. Based on his Twitter feed, he’s in Tampa at the moment.

In other news, Oppenheimer said the Yankees are still “trying” to hammer out a deal with first rounder Ty Hensley. When asked if the two sides were close, he said he “thinks so.” The deadline to sign draft picks is next Friday, July 13th. You can see all of New York’s picks at Baseball America and keep track of the financial situation at our Draft Pool page.

Categories : Asides, Draft
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