BBDP Breakout candidate: You can’t replace the Ref

BBDP Nickname: “The Ref”

The basics:
Name: Rob Refsnyder
Age: 22 to start next season.
Draft: 5th round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Arizona.
Size: 6-foot-1, 205-pounds
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Best Tools: Hit tool, athleticism and speed, and “it” factor tool.
Needs Work: 2nd base defense, consistency at the plate.
BBDP Ranking: 46

Forget the fact that he batted .352 for the Arizona Wildcats last season. Ignore his excellent athleticism, recruited by Pac-12 teams to play quarterback in addition to baseball. Don’t even mention the fact that he won the College World Series Most Outstanding Player in 2012. After all of this, he was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 5th round and told that he had to switch positions from outfield to second base. Not only that, but after taking some time off following the College World Series, he was thrust into Low-A full season baseball with the Charleston River Dogs.

This all sounds a bit overwhelming, and perhaps it was for Robert Refsnyder. He struggled bigtime out of the gate in 2012. The Ref wasn’t hitting for power, getting on base, or stealing bases. Not only that, but he only played a few games at second base before being switched back to the outfield for the remainder of the season. Refsnyder kept working at it though, and he went on a tear late in the season. His stats for the season ended up being .241/.319/.364/.683. Those numbers aren’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but a few things jump out at you.

First of all, despite the low average he still got on base a good amount. This goes along with the scouting report which states that he has excellent patience at the plate. The other thing that jumps out at you if you look at his splits is that he finished the season 11 for his last 36 (.306). He also hit four homers and 11 SB on the short season in 162 at bats. Not bad for a 21 year old in Low-A. The late season surge shows that he will be able to make adjustments as time goes on and the competition improves.

The success continued into the offseason. This year at instructs he worked on his defense at second base, and most feel he will in fact be able to make the transition. That will be a huge feather in his cap, and would be enough to increase his ranking substantially if he was able to stick at the position. Word is he made enough improvement that he will in fact play second base in 2013. With his athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a plus second basemen by season’s end.

Although his minor league batting average wouldn’t suggest it, Refsnyder’s hit tool is one of his best. Transitioning from metal to wood bats, jumping several levels straight to Low-A, and suffering from rust after taking some time off from the game are likely factors that played into his early season struggles. He’s a line drive hitter with some pop, so it would be surprising if he wasn’t able to hit for an average circa .300 next season. Along with his hit tool, he also has the ability to draw walks. This is something our current all-star second baseman does not have, and makes Refsnyder even more valuable at the plate.

Athleticism and speed are also a major part of his game. He stole 11 bases in just 46 games, which means he could steal close to 40 over a full major league season. It remains to be seen if this speed will translate into steals at the highest levels of the game though, because catchers and pitchers are much better at preventing steals as the competition gets better. Regardless of steals, he is athletic enough to play a middle infield position and do it well.

The last tool listed is the “it” factor tool. Many will argue that this tool doesn’t exist. Personally, I think it has to exist to a certain extent. Derek Jeter has won since he was wearing diapers. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but he won at the Little League World Series as a kid, and never stopped winning since then. Nick Swisher, on the other hand, appears not to have a clutch bone in his body. Say what you will about sample sizes, but Nick Swisher has been in the playoffs 6 seasons now and has 154 at bats. He’s batting .169. That’s an argument for another day though. If clutch does exist, then Robert Refsnyder is the most likely player in the entire 2012 draft to possess it. He’s shown in the recent past that he is at his best in the most important games.

He also has great leadership qualities and is the type of player who has thus far always said the right things to the media. This was never more apparent than when South Carolina fans were screaming racial slurs at him during a game in the CWS and he handled the media with grace.

If Robert Refsnyder is able to improve his defense at second base and develop more consistency at the plate, he is one of the top choices to break out and be a top 20, or even top 10 player in the Yankees farm system by the end of next season. Improving his consistency might not be as difficult as it sounds, as he appeared to find himself at the plate late last season. If he can carry that over into next season, his only chore will be to become a better defender.

The ceiling with Refsnyder is an all-star second baseman. He’s got great potential and he was the MVP against the best competition NCAA baseball has to offer. The floor is what we saw early in his minor league career. A guy who just isn’t able to transition and isn’t able to cut it at second base. If that’s the case, he won’t play a game in the major leagues. That said, I think his actual performance will be closer to his ceiling than it will to his floor.

His estimated time of arrival would be 2015. If he figures things out quickly it could be even sooner than that. He’s yet another player for the Yankees with the potential to be a star. Eventually the Yankees are going to be able to cash in on a few of these players, and it’s going to be quite a show when they do.

This entry was posted in BBDP and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to BBDP Breakout candidate: You can’t replace the Ref

  1. Tanned Tom says:

    I realize he is a few years away, and that prospects get traded all the time, but I'm wondering if drafting him doesn't foreshadow the team taking a hard line position with Cano's upcoming free agency.

    • Greg Corcoran says:

      That could absolutely be the case. At the very least I think they are putting themselves in a position to not feel obligated to offer Cano the world after 2013. There isn't a player in the league who will be able to replace Cano's production at second, and I don't think anyone in the Yankees system could be expected to replace that. What they could do is be a serviceable, cheap replacement that allows the team to spend and improve in other areas.

      Let me go on record saying I think the best thing for the team is to re-sign Cano. They do, however, have a slew of second basemen who will be ready to contribute in 2014 or soon after. In order of the closest to the furthest away, here they are…

      1. Corban Joseph
      2. David Adams
      3. Jose Pirela
      4. Robert Refsnyder
      5. Anderson Feliz
      6. Angelo Gumbs

      The depth is actually pretty astounding. Cano is definitely irreplaceable, but these guys could certainly ease the pain of a Cano loss and allow the Yankees to spend elsewhere.

      • wally says:

        I hope you're right about this kid, but I have to say I'm skeptical.
        Why, for example, was he only a fifth round pick? And .352 is not really that good a college BA. Many hit .400 and fail to make bigs.
        That said, I have not seen Refsnyder and have no professional scouting opinion.
        It does seem odd to me though that you have him closer to the majors than Gumbs. And while you talk about Refsnyder's speed, it was Gumbs who really went wild on the bases before getting hurt — very high SB success rate. Also, I question Joseph above Adams. I see Adams as a future MLB starting second baseman — one who should have been in AAA last year and would start for some teams in MLB this year. Joseph falls short on defense and may never be anything more than a spare bat.

        All that said, Greg, I enjoy reading these pieces — keep em coming.

        • Greg Corcoran says:

          Totally agree with your skepticism. This is why he's a breakout candidate and not a sure thing. I gave him high praise in the article because I feel he will break out based on the scouting information I have on him. Also, those rankings in order of closeness to contribution are very rough and fluid. I feel Refsnyder is a more polished hitter than Gumbs, so I believe he will move quickly. Corban Joseph has more experience in AAA than David Adams. I think Adams is the better player but he may move permanently to 3b. Its very close between the two though. Adams has a one up bc he can play multiple positions so id be amenable to switching those two on the list.

  2. hotdog says:

    Greg, this guys hitting having a good spring…needs to play better defense and why 2nd base I don't know…

  3. hotdog says:

    a great spring…no jinx…