Yankee fans have been calling for – and praying, hoping, and wishing for – Rob Refsnyder to be called up to the Major League. Friday night, we heard he would be playing – and starting – on Saturday and Sunday in Boston. After two starts in the newly dawning Rob Refsnyder era, are Yankee fans satisfied?
In this very small sample size, Yankee fans have been (seemingly) pleased, at least as far as I can tell. Sunday’s game was particularly exciting for fans who saw not only Refsnyder’s first major league hit (a single to right field), but also his first major league home run. The home run was not only a beautiful two-run shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, but ultimately won the game for the Yankees with a final score 8-6.
Going into the All Star break, we’re riding a wave of Rob Refsnyder excitement – so much so, that many fans are declaring Stephen Drew’s days in pinstripes are over, or at very least numbered. I hope to see Yankee prospects be promoted and succeed just as much as anyone else, but in Refsnyder’s case, we can’t get too excited too quickly. He has been in the major leagues for two days – and is 24 year old converted outfielder who’s offense has been his weakness. As is the case with any rookie, he will struggle – and it’s important for fans not to give up on Refsnyder the moment he becomes the least bit shaky (as so many did with Didi Gregorius).
Assuming Ref plays well enough the Yankees just can’t demote him, what happens then? How do we keep him on the roster, and who is there if/when he does struggle?
As the roster is right now, the backup option would obviously be Stephen Drew. His bat has obviously been awful, but he has shown he’s capable of playing a decent second base. As I’ve said before, I have to give Drew credit for learning a new position late in his career, and especially for doing so successfully. But, shortly after the All Star break, the Yankees also have utility infielder Brendan Ryan returning from injury. Ignoring all other roster moves (Carlos Beltran will also be returning around the same time), this gives the Yankees three middle infielders for two roster spots.
The main battle will be for second base – Chase Headley is locked in at third base as Didi Gregorius is at shortstop. Let’s assume Refsnyder wins the second base job (since so many of us want him to anyway), and the Yankees are forced to chose between Drew and Ryan. My vote for backup infielder has to go to Stephen Drew.
As is often the case, money comes first. Ryan signed a contract for 2 years $4 million (2014-2015) while Drew signed this off season for 1 year $5 million (2015). Ryan is less expensive, but the Yankees would be more willing to drop a $2-2.5 contract than a $5+ contract.
In offensive and defensive categories, Stephen Drew beats Brendan Ryan in career batting average, and in fielding percentage at second base, shortstop, and even third base.
Career Batting: .234 Ryan .252 Drew
2B Fielding %: .977 .982
SS Fielding %: .978 .979
3B Fielding %: .942 1.000
*Drew played only 13 innings at 3B
** Ryan has also played 1B and OF positions
That isn’t to say Brendan Ryan doesn’t have value as a utility infielder – his numbers really aren’t awful and there’s something to be said for a player who can fill in at so many different positions. He does have a big problem staying healthy, and has already had multiple trips to the DL this season already. It seems likely that as he ages, his trips to the DL will only increase.
Earlier this season, Joe Girardi more or less declared that Stephen Drew would be the backup at third base if Chase Headley was unable to play or needed a day off. At the time, the focus was more about what that meant for Alex Rodriguez – that Girardi was essentially saying he would not use him in the field (a choice that has been beneficial for both Rodriguez and the Yankees so far). But the peculiar thing about Girardi using Drew as the backup third baseman is that he already was – and until Refsnyder or anyone else definitively proves otherwise – the every day starting second baseman.
Jose Pirela is a possible substitute at second or third – if he hadn’t been sent back to Scranton late last week. Gregorio Petit is also a possibility, although his performance has been underwhelming at best. He was also signed in an emergency backup one of the times Brendan Ryan was put on the DL earlier this season. Assuming there will soon be an overabundance of middle infielders on the Yankees roster, there really is no need for Petit. If the Yankees are set on keeping him, they could send him back to Scranton – but they could also just as easily cut their ties to him completely.
With Pirela already sent to Scranton, and Petit and Ryan removed from the roster (by trades or any other means), that leaves Stephen Drew as the utility infielder for the Yankees. I am confident he can play shortstop, second base, and now third base in an emergency (although, I wouldn’t mind if he had a few more innings of work at third before giving a full vote of confidence).
Girardi said Drew would be Headley’s backup, which leaves second base open and Refsnyder recently added to the roster… (For what it’s worth, Girardi also spoke to Drew privately about Refsnyder before the call up was announced.) Perhaps Girardi was foreshadowing a move he knew was coming, or maybe it’s all just a wild coincidence. Either way, Rob Refsnyder made an impression in two short days, and will definitely make this an interesting All Star break for the Yankees front office.