BBDP Nickname: “The Ref”
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
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.