As Chase Headley enters what could be his last two seasons with the New York Yankees, can Miguel Andujar force himself into the picture?
Signed by New York as an international free agent back in 2011 out of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, Andujar has performed exceptionally well despite being moderately unknown by the common Yankees’ fan.
In 2015, Andujar led High-A Tampa in hits (118), doubles (24) and tied for the team lead in triples (5). From Aug 9 to Aug 23, he went on a 14-game hitting streak, maintaining a .328/.362/.600 slash line during what was the fourth-longest hitting streak in the Florida State League.
Fresh off a stellar campaign, the 21-year old hit 10 home runs in 58 games (.817 OPS) in Tampa the following season, earning him a promotion to Double-A Trenton.
Overall in 2016, Andujar slashed .273/.332/.410 with an OPS of .742, 12 home runs and 83 RBI’s. No, they aren’t astonishing numbers, but a standout performance in the Arizona Fall League has brought his potential ceiling into the prospect spotlight.
While playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian, Andujar went 19-for-67 (.284) and showed great discipline at the plate by drawing nine walks and striking out just 11 times.
Andujar will enter camp here in 2017 on New York’s 40-man roster and if everything comes together for the third baseman, things could get very interesting regarding the man who’s currently manning the hot corner in the Bronx, Chase Headley.
If you take away his defensive struggles two years ago, all Headley is to the Yankees is a solid defender at third (seven defensive runs saved above average in ’16) that has been a shell of the version of himself that hit 31 home runs for the Padres in 2012.
This past offseason, the one right before the third year of his four-year, $52-million deal, his name was littered in trade rumors as it seemed as though Brian Cashman wanted to shed his remaining salary.
On one hand, the Yankees should be glad they didn’t.
After a dismal April, the 32-year old maintained a .265/.338/.418 slash line including 14 home runs in 121 games to close out the year (almost 20 home runs when proportioned to 650 PA).
So, Headley unquestionably has the potential to lift 20 home runs in a given season — especially with the short porch in right. But, what if the remainder of his 2016 season was a fluke and he continues to be the unremarkable former All-Star he has been since being acquired on July 22, 2014?
Well, in order for there to be pressure from Andujar to push him out along with the latter circumstance, there are a couple of aspects that baseball’s seventh-best third base prospect needs to improve upon.
MLB Pipeline gave him a score of 55 on the prospect grading scale in terms of batting power, but he didn’t hit a single home run in the AFL. Plus, he ripped just two in 251 plate appearances at Trenton last season coming off a stint in Tampa where he hit 10 home runs in 319 plate appearances.
Pipeline suggests that he could be a .270 hitter with the ability to smash 20 homers every year. Yes, the development of that highly touted power is something the Yankees haven’t seen on a consistent basis, but it’s certainly in there somewhere.
Above his offensive potential, though, Pipeline declares Andujar’s “cannon of an arm” as his most impressive tool as a ballplayer (70/80). He needs some consistency with his glove (22 errors in 2016) but, as his ranking would confirm, he is one of the better third base prospects in the sport.
Andujar is anticipated to begin 2017 back in Trenton, but a late-season promotion to Triple-A is foreseeable, which could force Headley to look over his shoulder — if he is unable to improve over what very well may be his final two seasons as a Yankee.
Perhaps this discussion is more for 2018, where it’s not far-fetched to see Headley dealt in an Ivan Nova-like deal (sell-low) if everything comes together for Miguel Andujar this season.