2022 in one sentence:
While Refsnyder solidified himself as a good platoon option and enjoyed perhaps his best year in the Major Leagues, he remains a fringe roster option due to waning age and the Red Sox’s organizational depth.
Refsnyder put out an impressive performance, both at the plate and wit his versatility in the field, and came just short of making 2022’s Opening Day roster, a 26th spot that presumably went to the likes of Kutter Crawford or Travis Shaw. By all accounts a journeyman, spending time with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, and most recently the Twins, Refsnyder capitalized on a few members of the team not being able to travel to Toronto by driving a run in in a victory against one of his former teams, and raked in Triple-A Worcester to the delight of the Polar Park regulars.
Alex Cora loves himself some utility infielders, himself being such a player. It is a huge plus if these players can also play outfield. It’s an even bigger plus if these players can play outfield well, especially center field. Cora has given prominent spots to players who fit that profile that hit far worse than Refsnyder (cough, Marwin Gonzalez, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello) but Refsnyder certainly lived up to that utility role once being called up after Kiké Hernandez went down with a problem many thought was a hip flexor injury, but which evidently ended up being worse than that. All Refsnyder did in that stretch was bat .333 with an OPS of .965, and excluding Reese McGwire, who arrived mid-season, Refsnyder trailed just Xander Bogaerts in batting average (minimum 50 plate appearances) and led the team in OPS. His BABIP also enjoyed a boost of 67 points from last year’s middling season in Minnesota, and his wRC+ almost doubled to 146.
Though Refsnyder could be found in the infield in Worcester, he was used in the majors as a guy who could play in any slot in the outfield. Of his 57 games, just less than half (28) were in right, but 17 were in center as well. While he did commit a couple of errors, that was still good for a .973 fielding percentage, a number that felt higher and certainly proved to be higher than the alternative, given the highlight - or should I say, lowlight reels - of haunting plays on fly balls this season’s Red Sox gave us. Sometimes, just not being historically awful is a statement enough in a season like this, and when you add in that this guy has the ability to play any position on the diamond and has grown to be a menacing out at the plate, it’s easy to find value in a piece originally just thought to be a depth signing.
Aside from the aforementioned errors, Refsnyder is simply not a player that can hit balls out of the park. Despite hitting 6 home runs this year, that only doubled his career totals despite being in the Majors since 2015. His home runs helped him achieve the best ISO rating in his career, at .190, but he’s hovered around half of that for the majority of his career. Furthermore, he is not particularly a speed threat. This is where, if I were a stand-up comic, I’d say something about a sloth, or something cliche. But I wouldn’t say it’s a liability level speed, since he’s a sound baserunner, you’re just not going to see him steal many bases.
He’s also on the “wrong side of 30”, turning 32 during Spring Training. Normally, I’d be concerned at even looking for players this age, but there appears to not be any room in the starting lineup for Refsnyder, and the team - and the league in general - is much more willing to take a flyer on a talented utility platoon number if they are… uh… of that age. In fact, Refsnyder’s growth in a later age could actually prove to his benefit when it comes to the next contract he signs, which may be short, but may not be defined to any depth parameters like his last few.
Best Game or Moment
It probably has to be a home run, right? And if so, would it be a go-ahead run in the fourth inning off the Reds’ Nick Lodolo, or, just by policy of hitting a home run against the Yankees, his dinger in July? It seemed as though, just based on where Refsnyder tended to bat in the lineup (leading off or second more often, sixth or seventh in his September stint with the team), that every time he hit a home run brought up a batter on the ensuing at-bat that would set the tone for the rest of the game.
But that’s boring and cliched.
So, actually, let me not pick a pivotal hit at all, and instead, opt to pick a play of Rob… well, rob-bing Ty France when he hit a long fly off of John Schreiber on June 12 in a 2-0 ballgame in Seattle. He ran 73 feet for an absolute web gem and picked a ball that might’ve led to a Seattle offensive run in a series that, hours earlier, had already seen the Red Sox bullpen fail to close out a one-run lead twice in one game.
The Big Question/2023 and Beyond
I’m combining these, because a guy well into his 31st year of existence with eight seasons since his debut usually faces questions about garnering some momentum, but Refsnyder actually has already answered that question this season. So, the real question, a question that really can’t be answered until past 2023, (or maybe even until he retires) is: Is Rob Refsnyder a guy who can make a late resurgence in his career and stay on a major league roster?
I don’t see why not! The questions are probably, for how long, and will it be in Boston? To answer that, some other dominos have to fall first. And, not to compare Refsnyder with Xander Bogaerts, but we need to know where his contract situation stands and, if he is hititng the road and if Trevor Story does head back to shortstop, just how much the Red Sox plan on keeping second base - and for that matter, with respects to Kike Hernandez’s versatility as well, center field a platooned position.
Now, obviously, my thoughts and hopes are that Xander Bogaerts will be back in 2023, which could throw a wrench in Refsnyder’s hopes of being as prominent as possible for Boston in a waning phase in his career. But, if there’s no room here, not even as a fourth outfielder, there’s no reason why his numbers couldn’t see him in a similar role where he’d be guaranteed some highly-regarded Major League service time. Until then, Refsnyder can take solace in the fact that out of all the Red Sox’s platoon options that emerged from the 40-man roster in 2022, he was the most dependable in a point of his career when he needed to be, and that dependability has answered a lot of questions for a lot of people in his situation.