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Rob Refsnyder. He's So Hot Right Now.


Rob Refsnyder has been so damn hot at the plate he’s practically glowing.

This stretch has been the intended results of a plan he devised nearly six years ago. After a short yet productive rookie season with the Yankees, Refsnyder stated that he was going to add the element of power to his game. 

“I’m going to try to hit home runs next year,” Refsnyder told Fangraphs’ David Laurila in September 2016. “I’ve had a lot of good conversations with people and I’m going to try to completely change my game. I think it will help my career.”

While he might have tried, he did not hit a home run, let alone many home runs, the next year. 

In 2016, Refsnyder was a 25-year-old floating between Triple-A and the New York Yankees. The Arizona State alumni --  a former College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player to boot -- had yet to make an impact on his club. He had a brilliant idea: He would add power to his game. 

His idea involved mirroring the approach of Minnesota Twin Brian Dozier. He noted that Dozier’s short, compact swing provided him with a high pull rate. The spray-to-all-fields approach wasn’t going to give him the requisite direction to hit home runs in bunches, he believed. So, over the next few years he tried to pull the ball. 

Refsnyder would finally pop his third career home run on April 27, 2018, by this time in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform. He would do it again on May 30 in Oakland but would not enjoy the slow jog around the bases again for almost three years. 

https://twitter.com/BallySportsNOR/status/1395888740976009218 

A lot has happened between major league home runs. Refsynder has been with four different organizations. He didn’t see any MLB time in 2019 while with the Diamondbacks and Reds. The following year, he was a member of the Rangers’ alternate site in 2020 and received 35 plate appearances in Texas. He would do a stint in St. Paul, first at the Twins’ preseason alternate site, then as a member of the Triple-A Saints. 

Notably, his swing morphed from a loosy, leg kick with multiple parts (left) to an inward twist (middle) and then back to a hanging leg kick with more stability bridging the upper and lower half while creating a stretch with the front and back (right).

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You can see the drastic change between his previous swing with Texas and his recent one with the Twins. 

You would understand that, after all those years of not being able to trot around the bases, that Refsnyder would take a moment to bask in the adulation for destroying a Triston Mckenzie fastball left up. But he did not. What did Refsnyder do? He thanked his Triple-A hitting coach.

“I was working on a couple things with Borgs,” Refsnyder told the media when asked about his swing, “and, thankfully, it has been working out.”

Matt Borgschulte, or Borgs as Refsnyder called him, said that it is a testament to what type of person Refsnyder is to take the time to give recognition to those who have helped him. 

“All the credit goes to Rob, I’ve learned a lot from him as well,” says Matt Borgschulte, pointing out that Refsnyder’s career through multiple organizations comes with tacit knowledge on hitting. Each stop gives him a new perspective from different coaches and players. Smart players are able to retain and transfer that to their next destination. 

Refsnyder was signed by the Twins in November and invited to spring training. He wasn’t thrilled with his performance in March, deriding the pull-side ground balls he hit, so he and the Twins’ staff reviewed video of his swing and re-wrote the plan. He said he was able to try some things while in the alternate camp without the worry of what his performance looked like. 

“Not having to worry about games means not worrying about numbers or statistics that are on the back of baseball cards,” says Borgschulte, emphasizing the process over the outcome.  

The Twins work on fitting hitters with their best movements. But in doing so it becomes a conversation between the player and the staff. Refsnyder had a vision and, as they rebuilt his approach, they would have a back-and-forth on what felt good, what was working and what needed adjustments. Borgschulte highlighted Refsnyder’s load as an important component of his swing, setting him up to be in a good position to attack good pitches.

When asked about the physical changes to his swing and how that impacted his ability to drive the ball, Borgschulte deferred and spoke toward Refsnyder’s overall approach: “Thinking too much about mechanics can be difficult on your approach,” he said. “Rob worked on trying to stay on the ball, going up the middle with it to the right-center field gap.”

That’s very different from the approach Refsnyder outlined in 2016 when he began to be hyper-focused on pulling the ball. In his limited time with the Twins, the majority of balls off his bat have gone to center field (52%) while less than a quarter have been pulled. Maybe more importantly to Refsnyder’s results, just 24% of batted balls have been on the ground. 

The Twins organization has implemented a system for communication between coaches at different levels, so after Refsnyder left the Saints, hitting coaches Edgar Varela and Rudy Hernandez were able to continue with -- and enhance -- the preparation plan for him when he arrived at the big league club. 

To be fair, getting excited over less than 40 plate appearances is not advised. After all, Refsnyder’s line (.438/.472/.719 with 2 HR) looks an awful lot like Robbie Grossman’s (.361/.452/.694 with 2 HR) after 11 games in a Twins uniform. Still, there are signs that this might be the culmination of Refsnyder’s 2016 plan to add power and, if that is the case, having a right-handed outfielder with some pop isn’t a bad addition. 

Enjoy the ride.

 


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Great story, things might be have clicked into place for RR. He obviously will not be able to sustain the present pace he is on, but .260-.280 with some power and good defense would make a great 4th OF. Everyone has their own comfort zone or where they perform at the highest level, maybe trying to pull everything got RR out of that zone and he has finally gotten back to it. Anyways, has been fun to watch him, hope he keeps it up.

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Honestly, I don't see a difference between his swing with the Rangers and with the Twins.  His footwork is identical.  It's a ridiculous swing when you get right down to it, and the truth is his swing is probably what kept him in the minors in spite of his high level of production there.

If his nonsensical foot motion is the only real problem left after his years of professional baseball, he might just pan out as a good player in the medium term.  There is no law that says you can't hit a baseball if you tilt your foot 90 degrees every time you swing.  No one likes a leg kick, but if the images in this post are truly representative of his usual swing, he has at least gotten better with it.

I would worry about his body breaking down over the course of a full season.  It would be interesting to ask him where he gets sore after playing for a month.  Mauer would turn his front leg upon occasion too, and we all know about his persistent leg/calf/ankle/foot soreness.

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An outstanding breakdown Parker, as usual! Why aren't you working as a coach somewhere again?

One of the best things about baseball is the stories of the players themselves. Some guys have a hot month or two, Refsnyder currently, some have a couple good years, think Led Ford, and some turn in to potential MVP sluggers at age 27+, think Cruz.

I refuse to think of Refsnyder as anything other than a guy who got hot at the right time when given an opportunity....for now.

His milb career has been solid, but he's never been able to put things together at the ML level thus far. I'm sure there are many reasons why, including the points stated in the OP. But is entirely possible that at 30yo he found the right place and time, and the right coaches to help him coalesce his previous experience and experiments in regarding to hitting for an approach that just "works". 

Totally agree regression is obviously in order. I also agree that if he could settle in as a .260-.280 hitter, etc, etc, that he could be a RH version of Cave with greater positional flexibility. And that would be a good thing because other than a roster crunch that could force the Twins hand, Kirilloff and Larnach don't appear to be going anywhere and neither is Kepler.

What has truly surprised me is his defense, the little I've been able to watch him. He's a 2B/utility fielder who has played some OF here and there, but doesn't seem to have played any CF until 8 games in 2018 and 5 games until 2019. And yet, he's looked surprisingly comfortable and competent in CF with the Twins despite the drop a couple nights ago when a ball hit the heel of his glove. 

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1 hour ago, Dodecahedron said:

Honestly, I don't see a difference between his swing with the Rangers and with the Twins.  His footwork is identical.  It's a ridiculous swing when you get right down to it, and the truth is his swing is probably what kept him in the minors in spite of his high level of production there.

If his nonsensical foot motion is the only real problem left after his years of professional baseball, he might just pan out as a good player in the medium term.  There is no law that says you can't hit a baseball if you tilt your foot 90 degrees every time you swing.  No one likes a leg kick, but if the images in this post are truly representative of his usual swing, he has at least gotten better with it.

I would worry about his body breaking down over the course of a full season.  It would be interesting to ask him where he gets sore after playing for a month.  Mauer would turn his front leg upon occasion too, and we all know about his persistent leg/calf/ankle/foot soreness.

It's subtle but there is a difference. The first one is a bit more uncoordinated, whereas the Twins one is more controlled. Parker also passed on explaining the difference in hand placement and that he's a little more upright in the Twins batting stance. 

Also, this "no one likes a leg kick" comment is just flat-out wrong. If anything, leg kicks have become more popular over the past few years.

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Nice write up. It is interesting that he was trying to become a pull hitter at one point because what struck me from highlight reels from this week's performance is that he was taking the ball to right and right-center, which I thought was a very good sign. I'll take this version over the pull hitter every time.

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Rob Refsnyder's story shows how hard it is to hit consistently against good pitchers. It has taken years for Refsnyder to find an approach that works, and now the next test is to see if he can maintain the same approach as pitchers try everything in their power to disrupt it. 

Meanwhile, Refsnyder came to the right team to learn about power hitting. With successful examples like Cruz, Sano and Garver to watch, it's little wonder he has discovered what works. He sees it every day in the cages. What I see in the third frame looks a little more like Cruz and Garver. This could be very fun to watch.

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12 hours ago, Dodecahedron said:

Honestly, I don't see a difference between his swing with the Rangers and with the Twins.  His footwork is identical.  It's a ridiculous swing when you get right down to it, and the truth is his swing is probably what kept him in the minors in spite of his high level of production there.

If his nonsensical foot motion is the only real problem left after his years of professional baseball, he might just pan out as a good player in the medium term.  There is no law that says you can't hit a baseball if you tilt your foot 90 degrees every time you swing.  No one likes a leg kick, but if the images in this post are truly representative of his usual swing, he has at least gotten better with it.

I would worry about his body breaking down over the course of a full season.  It would be interesting to ask him where he gets sore after playing for a month.  Mauer would turn his front leg upon occasion too, and we all know about his persistent leg/calf/ankle/foot soreness.

The "nonsensical foot motion" may be more a mechanism to prevent over swinging or an affirmation of completing the energy transfer through his body as he swings. Good question about soreness/injury potential.

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14 minutes ago, AceWrigley said:

The "nonsensical foot motion" may be more a mechanism to prevent over swinging or an affirmation of completing the energy transfer through his body as he swings. Good question about soreness/injury potential.

Just for giggles, I looked at Mauer's swing motion after I posted that.  He did the same thing on his front foot.  Either it's not as unusual as I thought it was, or it explains Mauer's constant issues with his leg/knee/calf/ankle/etc.

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10 hours ago, joefish said:

Another infielder playing outfield is unfortunate for us, but ride him while he is hot, or good and warm.  Appreciate his contributions. Atta Rob.

Why is it unfortunate?  He has looked quite good in CF.  Seems like a huge positive.  A RH hitting 4th outfielder that can cover CF would be a great asset especially given we are going to have LH hitting corner outfielders.  The fact that he can also play the IF is nothing but a plus.  If he can continue to produce at an above average wRC+ he is going to be a great utility player hopefully for the next few years.

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3 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

Why is it unfortunate?  He has looked quite good in CF. 

Yes. The defensive spectrum is long- and well-known for some position changes, such as SS->2B or 3B->1B or CF->LF (or RF), either due to eroding skills or else just a simple expediency for a time. Trying to go the other direction in these pairings is inadvisable, except in real emergencies.

But we've seen middle infielders shift reasonably successfully to the outfield, in recent Twins cases like Arraez (LF) or Royce Lewis (CF). And in the reverse direction it's not likely that Jake Cave (when healthy) or Max Kepler would make even a suitable emergency SS. So that is another defensive spectrum that is less talked about but is there when needed.

Up the middle talent is extremely valuable, as a general principle, with SS even more so than CF when it's a close choice. The bat still has to play, of course.

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I don't know if or how long this hot streak will last, but I'll definitely take it.  It's also come at a good time for the team.

It is nice that his hard work has paid off, even if just for a short while.  He's getting his opportunity and he's taking full advantage of it.

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I just saw a headline that read: "Are Kirilloff and Larnach making Kepler expendable?" I think Refsnyder can get an honorable mention. BUT in my opinion, Kepler isn't the "expendable" one. It's Buxton. Simply because HE CAN NOT STAY ON THE FIELD. I love Byron, love watching him play, but at what point do we call him Byron 'Bust'on?

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