Rob Refsnyder was adopted out of Korea as a three month old, and grew up in Orange County California. Rob was a three sport athlete in high school (baseball, basketball and football), but didn’t really stand out on a national scale. He went undrafted in MLB 2009 draft, and attended Arizona State University to continue his playing career.
Refsnyder had a successful 3 year career at Arizona, and finished his career as the MVP of the college World Series. With that said he wasn’t that high of a draft prospect, and was ranked as the 369th best draft prospect by Baseball America.
The Yankees drafted Refsnyder in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. With the intention of sticking him at second-base, which is a position he hadn’t played since high school. The Yankees were hoping that by moving him from the outfield to second, his power would play better, since he isn’t a prototypical corner outfielder.
With that said the Yankees didn’t transition Refsnyder right away and he began his professional career as an outfielder in 2012. He began his Yankee career with the Charleston RiverDogs.
Refsnyder’s half-season in Charleston was the only time in his Yankee career that he failed to be a league average hitter. He put up a 91 wRC+, and a wOBA of .319.After 2012 Refsnyder consistently put up much better numbers, despite learning a new defensive position.
For instance in 2013 Refsnyder put up the following numbers in A+ after a quick promotion from A-ball: 140 wRC+, .384 wOBA, .404 SLG, .408 OBP, and a .283 AVG. He also had 78 walks versus 70 strikeouts. This was the season that Refsndyer slowly got recognized, and he broke into Baseball Americas Yankees top-30 prospect list. He was only ranked at 29, but that was just the start. 2014 was really the year that Refnsyder’s prospect status skyrocketed. He began the year in AA and had a 159 wRC+, a .413 wOBA, a .548 SLG, a .385 OBP and a .342 AVG. His BB% was 5.7 and his k% was 15.6.
After 60 games in AA, Ref was promoted to AAA, and he finished the year at the level. His numbers understatedly regressed after his promotion to AAA, but he still did well at AAA. He played 77 games at the level and put up the following stats: 137 wRC+, 383 wOBA .300 AVG, .389 OBP, .456 SLG, 12.3 BB%, and 20.1 K%.
After the season Baseball America (BA) ranked Refnsyder as the 13th best prospect in both the Eastern (AA), and International Leagues (AAA). After the season BA ranked him as the teams 7th best prospect, and seemingly all other publications had him as a top-10 Yankee prospect.
After the season the general consensus was that his hit tool, and his power both were playing better than scouts expected and that he was one of the Yankees best pure hitting prospects. Considering that he was a top-10 prospect, and was already in AAA, it makes perfect sense that fans would start talking about his future role with the team. Some fans even thought he should start 2015 as the Yankees regular starting second-baseman.
With that said only one of Refsnyder story has been told so far, and that’s the story of his offensive upside. But obviously his defense also matters, and again he is not a natural second-baseman. At the start of the 2015 season it would’ve been incredibly risky to start Ref at second in the majors.
At the end of the 2015 season many believed Ref could be a fringe-average to average defender, but still needed reps, and most believed he would begin the season back at the AAA.
Once the Yankees re-signed Stephen Drew it made no sense to not give Refsnyder the reps he still needed, especially after his defensive showing in spring training.
Rob played most of the 2015 season in AAA and didn’t meet offensive expectations. His numbers were actually better in his first stint at the level. He hit for a: 123 wRC+, .353 wOBA, .271 AVG, .359 OBP, and a .402 SLG. He did cut down his K-rate to 14%, but overall fans expected more for him at the level.
With that said he did make the majors, and while it’s hard to read too much into 16 games, he certainly didn’t look lost on either side of the ball. He had a 130 wRC+ and a .363 wOBA while in the majors and at the very least piqued fans interest as a future platoon hitter.
On defense he didn’t really make any glaring mistakes, but there were times he did look like he took odd angles to balls. With that said in his small sample of Insider Edge data he did make 97.4% of routine plays, a 100% of his likely plays, and one unlikely play. So when fans say he made the routine plays in defense of Refsnyder they weren’t wrong, but of course that’s a tiny sample, and there’s no telling how he’ll do over a larger sample.
And that is partially why the Yankees went out and replaced him, with another questionable player, but a questionable player that has much more potential upside on both sides of the ball. Refsnyder will be sent back to AAA to get even more reps at second, and can continue to improve, and hopefully build himself up to have more of a role in the Yankees future.