First, a reminder that we’re doing a chat today at noon. We haven’t had one in a while, so there should be plenty to talk about. Stop by if you can.
Until then — on the off chance you’re not carefully reading The Journal News every day — here’s a link to Sunday’s story about second base prospect Rob Refsnyder. From his college coach, to his current general manager, to his Scranton/Wilkes-Barre teammates, Refsnyder seems to routinely impress people with his ability to stay focused on the task at hand. At the very mention of a possible call-up later in the year, Refsnyder rattled off to me that day’s to-do list, from eating lunch to studying defensive assignments to working on his offensive holes with Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar.
“The final destination is pretty obvious,” Refsnyder said. “But obviously we need to work on something (in Triple-A), and that’s kind of what consumes my day is how can I get better today and how can I get ready today?”
Among the things I didn’t have space to get into the newspaper story was Refsnyder’s step-by-step progress at second base.
A right fielder in college, Refsnyder started learning second base during instructs in the fall of 2012. He’d spent the second half of that season — right after he was drafted — playing right field for Low-A Charleston, but Refsnyder went to instructs and took “no exaggeration, probably a million ground balls” with Yankees infield instructor Carlos Mendoza. He was sent back to A-ball for the 2013 season and was treated as a full-time second baseman, working on a little of everything to get the basics ironed out.
“They started to get a little bit more fine-print when I was in Double-A,” he said.
By “fine print,” Refsnyder meant that he began working on some specifics when he got to Double-A this year. For example, at one point while he was in Trenton, the Yankees pointed out that his double play turns were slow.
“(Mendoza) came in and we did turns for three days,” Refsnyder said. “I was out before a lot of the people, and we did double play turns for like 40 minutes (each day). Then I got (to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) and Luis (Sojo) is like, ‘Hey, your first-step quickness is good, but we need to make it better.’ So I’m actually going to work on that today with Luis and watch some video to compare and contrast with some of the best defensive second basemen today. It’s a lot more fine print.”
Refsnyder said he feels that he has the fundamentals ironed out, and he credits a lot of teammates — he specifically named Cito Culver and Corban Joseph — with helping him learn some of the nuances of being an infielder. Although the Yankees have been using him in right field lately, it’s clear that they still see Refsnyder’s future at second base, and they seem encouraged by his defensive improvement. Refsnyder said he regularly finds himself making plays he couldn’t have made as recently as last season.
“Probably once or twice a week,” he said. “Just my double play turns this year have gotten so considerably quicker that Carlos and I share some moments where it’s like, wow man, it’s been fun.”
I closed the newspaper story with this quote from Refsnyder’s college coach, and I still think it’s a pretty telling comment on a player like this.
“Before, it was a guy who was bigger, faster and stronger (who made it to the majors),” Andy Lopez said. “Well, you know what? I’ve been doing this for 37 years. My God, they’re all big, strong and fast now. So what separates them? Well, it’s baseball IQ and work ethic and character. And Robert Refsnyder has all of those things.”
Photo from my old friend Jason Farmer at the Scranton Times-Tribune