Poll: The Second Base Situation

Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Drew. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon, the best available second baseman came off the board when the Athletics shipped Ben Zobrist to the Royals for two pitching prospects. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Zobrist, it just didn’t come together. For shame. Zobrist was a perfect fit for the Yankees and I was really hoping they’d land him before Friday’s trade deadline.

So now the Yankees will move forward and either stick with their current second base situation or acquire … someone. The second base market is really thin now. Martin Prado is the best available option and it’s not clear whether he is even available. The Marlins could simply hold onto him for next year. Brandon Phillips is the other big name out there. Let’s run down the club’s second base options with Zobrist now off the board.

Option No. 1: Stick with Drew

The Yankees have given Stephen Drew plenty of leash so far this season — he picked up plate appearances 300 and 301 last night — and he’s rewarded them with a .187/.261/.377 (73 wRC+) batting line. The 13 homers and 9.0% walk rate are nice, but there is basically no level of defense or power that makes making an out more than 73% of the time is acceptable. A total of 160 hitters are qualified for the batting title right now. Drew’s on-base percentage would be the 92nd best batting average. Yeah, it’s bad.

Now, to be fair, Drew has been better of late. He’s hitting .226/.308/.478 (115 wRC+) in 131 plate appearances since the calendar flipped to June, with a lot of that built on his three two-homer games in June. They count! Drew just hasn’t done a whole lot aside from those games. The bat hasn’t really come around to the point where you’d safely expect him to put up league average numbers going forward, but Drew has never not been reliable in the field, even while making the transition over to second. He’s as sure-handed as they come, and with no second base options likely to put up big offensive numbers, going with the best defender is a viable strategy.

Option No. 2: Go with Refnsyder

For a total of four games, the Yankees gave top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder a shot at the job. He was called up earlier this month, played the last two games before the All-Star break and the first two games after the break, and went 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer. His defense at second was … passable. Rough around the edges is a good way to describe it. Refsnyder didn’t look too natural there. The routine seemed difficult.

Of course, Refsnyder’s calling card is not his defense, it’s his bat. He’s hitting .285/.378/.404 (131 wRC+) in 393 plate appearances at Triple-A this year and .292/.383/.428 (133 wRC+) in 726 plate appearances at the level dating back to last year, so Refsnyder’s put up good numbers at the highest level of the minors. There are reasons to believe he’d be an upgrade over Drew at the plate. As an added bonus, Refsnyder is right-handed and would balance out the lefty heavy bottom of the lineup. The Yankees seem hesitant to give Refsnyder an extended opportunity — that’s not too surprising, they prioritize defense and he doesn’t offer it — but could do so after the trade deadline.

Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Prado. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Option No. 3: Trade for Prado

Like I said, the Marlins aren’t even committed to shopping Prado yet. Joel Sherman heard Miami will now “at least contemplate” trading Prado, which I guess is better than saying he’s off limits. He’s hitting .280/.321/.375 (92 wRC+) with 14 doubles and four homers this season, continuing a gradual decline that has seen him go from a 117 wRC+ in 2012 to 104 in 2013 to 103 in 2014 to 92 in 2015. Prado is versatile, which is nice even though we’re talking about him slotting in as the regular second baseman. Also, it’s worth noting Prado has not played second base regularly since 2010. He’s just filled in a handful of times each year. Check out our Scouting The Market post for more info on the ex-Yankee, who is also under contract next year.

Option No. 4: Trade for Phillips

At this point the rebuilding Reds would probably give Phillips away to rid themselves of the $32M they owe him through 2017. He’s hitting .273/.310/.355 (83 wRC+) so far this year, and, at age 34, his power is all but gone. His ISO has slid from .157 in 2011 to .148 in 2012 to .135 in 2013 to .103 in 2014 to .081 in 2015. That is both not a good trend and perfectly normal for a guy this age. Phillips is on the downside of his career. It’s clear as day. Peak dollars for non-peak production. But, Phillips is very available, and at this point he might be an upgrade over what the Yankees have in-house. Here’s our Scouting The Market post.

* * *

Unless a trade candidate comes out of nowhere — Dee Gordon? he just returned from his dislocated thumb — these are the four main options the Yankees have at second best now that Zobrist is off the board. I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I’m not even sure there’s much of a difference between the three when you considered expected production and acquisition costs, stuff like that. Time for a poll.

What should the Yankees do at second base?

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Even before Refsnyder demotion, Yankees needed to add a second baseman at the trade deadline

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

Disappointingly — and somewhat surprisingly — the Yankees demoted Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday when they needed to clear a roster spot for Carlos Beltran. Refsnyder played four games after being called up right before the All-Star break, going 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer while playing a not-so-natural second base. The team never did commit to him as the everyday second baseman.

“Just continue to improve,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings when asked what the team wants to see from Refsnyder. “Understanding the position, continue to make little adjustments. I thought he did a really good job considering the situation we put him in. In Fenway Park, that’s not the easiest place to start. But we believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and for right now, we’re going to stay with the guys we got.”

Brian Cashman said the move was made to maintain depth prior to the trade deadline — the obvious move to keep Refsnyder would have been designating Brendan Ryan for assignment — which makes sense but is disappointing. We’re all sick of the unproductive Stephen Drew and the homegrown Refsnyder is the team’s best chance for an upgrade from within. Four games with an All-Star break mixed in isn’t much of an audition.

Now, here’s the thing: Refsnyder wasn’t going to get much of audition before the trade deadline anyway. There’s nothing he could have done between the time he was called up and the July 31st trade deadline that could have convinced the Yankees or anyone else he was ready to be the everyday second baseman on a contending team. It’s not enough time to evaluate a young player at all. He was going to get 40 at-bats at the most before the deadline. That’s it.

The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by sending Refsnyder down yesterday. The mistake was not bringing him up sooner. Drew hasn’t hit all season — Girardi pointed out Drew had a good June (125 wRC+), but that month was three two-homer games and 11-for-83 (.133) in the other 21 games — and, as many have been saying, Refsnyder should have been up weeks ago, getting a longer audition to show what he can do, good or bad. They stuck with Drew too long.

“I think a lot of times people are going to have discussions about it, try to gather as much information as you can, and make the best decision you feel at the time,” said Girardi to Jennings. “Sometimes as you look back, maybe you would have done it a little different, but I think the important thing is that you make the best decision at the time with the information that you have. Guys are very close here, and that’s probably what’s making this decision tough.”

So the Yankees are in the same place they were a few weeks ago, in need of a new second baseman. Except now the Yankees have less time to evaluate Refsnyder before having to go outside for help, so in essence Refsnyder is a non-option. Well, that’s not true, I just have a hard time believing the Yankees would throw him to the wolves as a starting middle infielder in the middle of a postseason race. Believe it or not, he could actually be worse than Drew.

The team’s hesitancy to use Refsnyder tells us they don’t quite believe he is ready for regular big league action, either offensively, defensively, or both. In that case, the Yankees will need to go out and make a trade for a second baseman at some point in the eleven days, because the last four months have told us their current options aren’t enough. That was true even before Refsnyder was sent back down.

Game 91: Reverse Trap?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

About four years ago, this afternoon’s pitching matchup would have been a gem. CC Sabathia vs. Felix Hernandez. Two of the ten best pitchers in the game. Now it’s lopsided and not in the Yankees’ favor. Sabathia has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons while Felix remains one of the best. Not a good matchup!

Of course, the Yankees clobbered Hernandez last month, scoring seven runs in 4.2 innings after he started the game with three perfect innings on 21 total pitches. Hopefully today is a reverse trap game. The kind of game with a pitching matchup so lopsided the exactly opposite of what everyone expects to happen happens. That would be nice.

I’m not going to be home in time to post the lineups, so I will direct you to Chad Jennings for New York’s batting order. Carlos Beltran was activated off the DL and Rob Refsnyder was sent down, which is dumb, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shined with their decision making lately.

It’s nice and sunny in the Bronx this afternoon. Hot too. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 1pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally. Enjoy.

Aaron Judge tops Baseball America’s midseason top ten Yankees prospects lists

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

So I guess we’re in midseason prospect list update season now. On Friday, Baseball America (subs. req’d) posted their updated midseason list of the top ten Yankees prospects. They posted an updated midseason top ten for every team over the last two weeks. Their updated midseason top 50 prospects list came out last week.

Here is New York’s updated top ten according to Baseball America:

  1. OF Aaron Judge (13th on the top 50)
  2. RHP Luis Severino (17th on the top 50)
  3. SS Jorge Mateo
  4. 1B Greg Bird
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Eric Jagielo
  7. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  8. LHP Jacob Lindgren
  9. RHP Domingo Acevedo
  10. RHP Rookie Davis

Not included in any of the top tens are 2015 draft picks. I’m certain RHP James Kaprielian would have slotted into the top ten somewhere had they been included. Otherwise the top eight spots are pretty self-explanatory. Quibble with the order if you want, but those eight names make sense there.

Acevedo and Davis are the big risers — I didn’t have either on my pre-draft top 30 list, though Davis was an oversight and I should have included him. Acevedo has “a fastball that has touched triple-digits” while Davis has “taken steps forward over the last two years, especially in terms of command,” according to the write-up. Unless LHP Ian Clarkin has some kind of a career-threatening injury, I’d still take him over Acevedo or Davis.

OF Dustin Fowler, RHP Brady Lail, and LHP Jordan Montgomery are all listed as prospects on the rise while RHP Jose Ramirez is tabbed as a player whose stock is on the way down. Clarkin (elbow), RHP Domingo German (Tommy John surgery), RHP Ty Hensley (Tommy John surgery), and C Luis Torrens (shoulder) are all out with season-ending injuries, which knocked them down prospect lists. Can’t win ’em all.

Game 87: Refsnyder Arrives

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far this season the Yankees have already had ten players make their MLB debuts, and that doesn’t count Joel De La Cruz or Taylor Dugas, both of whom were called up for the first time but didn’t get into a game. So it’s really 12 players who reached MLB for the first time while wearing pinstripes this year. That’s a ton. They had eight players make their MLB debut all of last season.

Tonight, Rob Refsnyder will be the 13th Yankee to reach the big leagues for the first time this season. Word got out last night the team was calling up their top second base prospect and the Yankees confirmed the news after the game, and today Refsnyder is in the lineup. It’s a good time to break him in too — they’re facing left-handed starters today and tomorrow, and the right-handed Refsnyder did face tonight’s Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez in Triple-A earlier this season. What happens after these two games … who knows? One step at a time. Here is the BoSox’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF All-Star Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Chris Young
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Ivan Nova

Pretty much a perfect night for baseball in Boston. Clear skies, not too hot, nothing wet in the forecast. Tonight’s game will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on FOX. Yeah, it’s going to be one of those games. Enjoy the broadcast!

Roster Move: The Yankees still haven’t announced a roster move to accommodate Refsnyder because they wanted to see how Headley (calf) got through batting practice and pregame work. Everything went well, by all accounts. The team needs to make both 25-man and 40-man moves. Designating Cole Figueroa or Gregorio Petit for assignment would accomplish both. We’ll see.

Roster Move Update (6:44pm): Figueroa has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton and Mason Williams has been transferred to the 60-day DL, the Yankees announced, clearing room for Refsnyder. So Mason’s shoulder injury went from nothing to something in a hurry, huh?

Yankees will call up Rob Refsnyder on Saturday

(MiLB.com)
(MiLB.com)

10:30pm: Joe Girardi confirmed Refsnyder will indeed be called up and in the lineup the next two days following tonight’s game. “Refsnyder will be here. We will see two lefties and he will be here tomorrow. He’s making strides on defense and we will see,” said the skipper.

7:23pm: According to Jack Curry, the Yankees will call up second base prospect Rob Refsnyder tomorrow. He is not in tonight’s Triple-A Scranton lineup, not that we have any reason to doubt Curry’s reporting. The Yankees will have to make both a 25-man and 40-man roster move to accommodate Refsnyder.

Refsnyder, 24, is hitting .290/.387/.413 (136 wRC+) with seven home runs, 44 walks, and 44 strikeouts in 81 games with the RailRiders this season. He’s been better of late too, putting up a .299/.413/.445 (155 wRC+) batting line with 23 walks and 14 strikeouts in 37 games since June 1st.

The Yankees are facing lefties the next two games (Eduardo Rodriguez, who Refsnyder faced in Triple-A earlier this year, and Wade Miley), so Refsnyder figures to step right into the starting lineup. Stephen Drew has not hit a lick all season (72 wRC+) but does have value defensively. Refsnyder doesn’t. It’ll be interesting to see if this is a platoon situation or if Refsnyder gets the job outright.

Chase Headley‘s calf issue is clearing up and he could return to the lineup tomorrow, in which case Cole Figueroa would be the obvious roster casualty. Gregorio Petit is the other candidate. Either way, this move was a long-time coming. Second base has been a black hole all year.

If not now, when will it be the time for Rob Refsnyder?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have already reached the point where a change needs to be made at second base. Stephen Drew is nursing a .176/.251/.360 (66 wRC+) batting line and currently ranks 155th out of 164 qualified hitters in wRC+. He’s sure-handed in the field and that is appreciated, but good gravy, no level of defense makes up for that offense. Second base is a problem.

Neither Jose Pirela nor Brendan Ryan nor Gregorio Petit is appealing as an everyday player, meaning the club’s best internal second base option is Rob Refsnyder. He’s hitting a solid .286/.384/.409 (134 wRC+) with Triple-A Scranton after going deep in each of his last two games. Since May 1st, Refsnyder owns a .295/.410/.436 (151 wRC+) batting line with more walks (38) than strikeouts (30). He’s also gone 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts.

Refsnyder’s strikeout rate is most encouraging. His walk rate has always been good in the minors — minor league walk rates aren’t all that predictive anyway because there are so many pitchers down there who can’t throw strikes — but his strikeout rate did increase as he climbed the ladder. It went from 13.8% at High-A to 15.6% at Double-A to 20.1% at Triple-A last year. This year Refsnyder has cut it down to 12.5%, which is good to see even if he is repeating the level.

That said, we all know offense isn’t really the issue with Refsnyder. He’s put up great minor league numbers and who knows if that will translate to MLB success. That applies to everyone. Many great minor league mashers couldn’t hack it in the show. Refsnyder’s real problem is his sketchy second base defense at a time when the Yankees are prioritizing defense so heavily that they’re willing to punt offense to get it. (See: Drew, Stephen.) Bad timing for Refsnyder. A few years ago the team would have been more willing to overlook his glove.

There’s no way for us to evaluate Refsnyder’s defense in Triple-A. Errors don’t tell anything (can’t make an error on a ball you don’t get to!) and looks are limited. At least they are for me. The scouting reports have generally remained the same: Refsnyder works hard and is making progress but is still below-average and unlikely to be better than average down the line. And if that really is the case, it’s hard to see where Refsnyder fits with the Yankees long-term given their sudden obsession with defense.

At this point though, the Drew experiment isn’t working. He was a fine low-cost flier coming into the season and it didn’t work out. That’s baseball. The Yankees have turned to other young players this year — mostly outfielders following injuries — and were rewarded with solid production. In some cases more than that. Refsnyder won’t play much defense and he might not hit at all. It’s a risky move, no doubt. Is that enough of a reason to keep running Drew out there? I don’t think so. Obviously the Yankees disagree.

I think we’ve reached the point where it’s fair to ask: when will the Yankees be comfortable calling up Refsnyder if not right now? The second base situation at the MLB level is dreadful and the team has a good (not great) second base prospect in Triple-A who’s hit well since the calendar flipped to May. That … seems like a no-brainer move. They’re waiting for his defense to improve, I get it, but that may never happen. That also applies to Drew’s offense!

No one is asking Refsnyder to be a savior. We’re just looking for competence and a possible upgrade over one of the worst everyday players in baseball. The Yankees could either try the kid out and hope for a net upgrade thanks to improved offense, or continue to stick with a known sub-mediocrity. Unfortunately so far the club is going with the latter.