Before the December trade that brought Starlin Castro to the Bronx, the New York Yankees seemed set to open the 2016 season with some sort of combination of Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley at second base. Now with Castro seemingly entrenched at the position, Refsnyder’s contribution is unclear and Ackley is now the front runner to see action as the backup first baseman in the wake of Greg Bird‘s season ending injury. Refsnyder was and has been the fan favorite to take over the workload at second before the Castro deal. Castro will bring youthful experience from his time with the Cubs as the three time all star will only turn 26 during 2016. One thing is for certain in that the Yankees will be at their strongest at the position since Robinson Cano signed a free agent contract with the Seattle Mariners after the 2013 season.
In the Bronx:
The starter: Starlin Castro
Castro came to the Yankees in a December deal that sent Adam Warren to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Castro began his Cubs career as a shortstop, but was bumped from his starting position by Addison Russell after six seasons. Castro showed a ton of promise early in his career, hitting .300 as a 20-year-old rookie and making the All-Star team three times by age 24. After losing his starting shortstop job on Aug. 7 because of poor defense and a lack of clutch hitting, Castro rebounded after his eventual move to second and batted a National League-high .369 in September and October.
The Yankees have tried unsuccessfully to replace the departed Cano with the likes of Brian Roberts, Stephen Drew, and Brendan Ryan. Every game that Drew was trotted out to second base in 2015 was cause for constant consternation among the fanbase and the cries of “Refsnyder to the Bronx” were deafening. Castro should be able to put to rest many of those cries, but the fact remains that Refsnyder is still on the minds of many fans.
Castro’s detractors point to the fact that he has little experience at second base and his mid season stat line of .237/.271/.304 is definitely something to worry about. Hopefully, that was just a small bump in the road and the Yankees didn’t trade Warren for someone who may put up no better numbers than Refsnyder would have. The positives are that Castro is part of the Yankees plan to get younger and he still has potential to put up similar numbers to his end of 2016 performance and form a potent combination with Didi Gregorius for many years to come.
The backup candidates:
Refsnyder is still considered one of the Yankees top prospects and has an opportunity to play a role with the big league club in 2016. What that role will be is not exactly certain. Refsnyder hit .302/.348/.512 in only 16 games during his brief stint with the team in 2015. Thought to be the savior at second base for the Yankees, Refsnyder will have the opportunity to earn a roster spot this spring, but will be challenged by others with better utility skills and will possibility end up in Triple-A at least to start the season. The key to spending extended time with the big league club may be getting a chance to work out at third base in order to secure a platoon spot.
The possibility exists that if Ackley’s bat makes a resurgence he will be in the lineup pretty regularly, whether at first base, second base, or in the outfield. He can fill in behind Teixeira at first, spell Castro at second when he needs a day off or when Castro backs up Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and can fill in as an extra outfielder. His versatility will be much needed for the team in 2016.
Torreyes has been on, off, and back on the 40 man roster since being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in January. His reacquisition came in the wake of the Greg Bird injury and he has the ability to play second, short, and back up Chase Headley at third base. This would keep Castro from filling in at third which is a position he has minimal experience at. Essentially, Torreyes is more or less Brendan Ryan, but with the ability to at least hold his own at the plate. In my opinion, with a decent spring, Torreyes will have a leg up on the 25th roster spot to start the season. He has minor league options left should the need arise for an extra pitcher during the early part of the season and could shuttle back and forth between the Bronx and Scranton.
In the Minors
Estrada moved between second and shortstop during his time with Staten Island in the New York-Penn League during 2015, but figures to get a shot at second going forward. Estrada, who is 20 years old, was signed in 2012 out of Venezuela for $50,000. He is noted as a plus defender and has an average bat with little power. He should start 2016 in Charleston and has the possibility of moving up as he is not blocked at the next two levels by a major prospect.
Katoh was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft. He has plus speed, and has the potential to be an above average defender. Major struggles at the plate led to a demotion from Low-A Charleston to Rookie ball in 2015. He will get his third chance at Class A pitching this season and needs to prove he is up to the task in order to remain on the prospect radar.
There should be some shuffling in the Yankees system at second base this season. Last years sixth-round pick Brandon Wagner is projected to make the move to third base this season. Depending on how things shake out at shortstop, it is likely that prospects such as Tyler Wade or Abiatal Avelino end up making the move to second base and could dramatically affect the dynamic of the position in the system.
One thing is for certain, 2016 will be interesting as far as second base is concerned in the Yankees system. Can Starlin Castro hold on to the position long term? And what will come of fan favorite Rob Refsnyder? The system has a chance to move forward at the position by moving players from other positions. Opinions will abound about the keystone sack and will be one of the most talked about positions on the field this season. Regardless, the future looks bright.