For the first time in three years, the New York Yankees go into the All-Star break atop the American League East. For the first time in more than three years, the Yankees actually have something positive to look forward to.
Despite their recent struggles at second base between Stephen Drew and Jose Pirela, both of which have done nothing, they may have caught a preview of the future of that position in Rob Refsnyder.
The 24-year-old South Korean made his Major League debut on Saturday at Fenway Park and hit his first career big league home run on Sunday. Although Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said that Refsnyder’s debut was just a short-term decision based on the Yankees facing a pair of lefties at Fenway over the weekend, Refsnyder may have made a point to stay in the Bronx.
It took a while for him to come up to the Bronx, but the wait was worth it. Prior to his debut on Saturday, Refsnyder was regarded as one of the Yankees top prospects, hitting .296 with 31 home runs and 179 RBIs. So far, he’s just 2-for-7 (.286) with the solo home run and two RBI in two games with the Yankees.
But despite the few mistakes he made in his pair of games against Boston last weekend, don’t expect that to affect Refsnyder or his future with the Yankees moving forward.
He’s shown that he can hit big-league hitting and that he’s not afraid to take chances on the field, making a backhanded flip to second on a close force play in the eighth inning in Sunday’s 8-6 win.
“It’s not easy,” Refsnyder said afterwards, “but it’s a play you need. If I go underhanded there, it might be too late. I’ve worked at it. I think that’s one thing people may not realize: young guys can get better if they work at it.”
While his defense should get better over time, it’s his bat that could keep him in the lineup – his right-handed bat.
“I haven’t seen a lot of him, but he looks like a good right-handed bat,” Alex Rodriguez said, “and that could be good for us, with all of the lefties we have.”
On the current Yankee lineup and bench, New York tends to send out six pure left-handed hitters and three switch-hitters. Refsnyder’s purely right-handed bat would be a welcome addition to a lineup where Alex Rodriguez is the only other pure right handed hitter.
The Yankees best move would be to keep Refsnyder in the big club for the rest of the year. They should send Gregorio Petit, which would be the easiest route given minor-league options and baseball’s roster rules.
They could also get rid of either Drew of Brendan Ryan, which would open up a roster spot, although keeping Drew and Ryan who can both play short as well could give the Yankees decent depth in the middle infield. (Refsnyder is solely a second baseman.) Or they can just send Refsnyder back to Triple-A, playing the “progression” card.
For a team with a legitimate chance at returning to the postseason for the first time since 2012, keeping Refsnyder aboard for the second half would be the best move for the near-future and possibly years to come.