As each minor league game passes, Miguel Andujar looks more and more like a cornerstone talent for the New York Yankees.
Heading into this season, it was quite obvious the New York Yankees possessed one of the elite farm systems in all of baseball.
With the presence of youngsters like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Jorge Mateo, Blake Rutherford, James Kaprielian and Justus Sheffield, both SB Nation and Keith Law (Insider only) believed the organization had the second-best prospect pool in their preseason rankings. Bleacher Report placed them atop all teams in Major League Baseball.
The reasoning for ranking the Yankees so high on lists wasn’t only because they were top heavy. Dustin Fowler, Chance Adams, Tyler Wade and Domingo Acevedo weren’t as highly touted but still possess big-league potential.
Miguel Andujar was always at or near the top of the second level. But as this season turns to August, he’s making his case as the best prospect in the system — bar none.
“He’s coming on like gangbusters,” one big league scout said. “He’s not only the most exciting player in Scranton, he’s the best player in Scranton.”
That sentiment may not have been the same if there wasn’t a string of events that led Andujar to Triple-A. Frazier and Wade started the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but currently occupy spots on the Yankees roster. Fowler suffered an open rupture of his patella tendon and was eventually traded as a part of a package for Sonny Gray. And Gleyber Torres — one of the best prospects in the game — has been out since June after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
But even if Andujar’s road from New Jersey to Pennsylvania didn’t possess many roadblocks, that doesn’t change the fact that he earned his spot.
The Yankees always had an affinity for Andujar. They handed him $750,000 — the largest sum of money awarded by the organization in the 2011-12 international class — as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic.
Andujar steadily advanced from rookie ball to High-A over the first four years of his professional career — but it didn’t come without struggles. The third baseman hit just .266 over that span and went through serious ebbs and flows on a near-consistent basis.
2016 was a different story. Andujar was 21 years old when he got his first taste of Double-A action, as he was rewarded with a promotion after slashing .283/.434/.474 in 58 games in Tampa. He only had a .681 OPS the rest of the campaign but Andujar showed the necessary tools to be the everyday third baseman for the Thunder entering this season.
After flashing his potential to Yankees fans during Spring Training, Andujar was one of the premier bats in the middle of Trenton’s lineup. He did a little bit of everything, as the youngster got on base at a high clip (.342), hit for average (.312) displayed power (seven home runs, 52 RBI) and flashed an impressive eye at the plate (38 strikeouts in 253 at-bats). When Torres tore his UCL, the decision to call-up Andujar was a no-brainer.
And it’s safe to say said decision has paid off.
Andujar has played in 34 games with the RailRiders and has quickly ascended from secondary player to their top hitter. He’s currently sporting a triple slash of .333/.370/.563, all career-highs. Andujar also has as many home runs in Triple-A that he had in Double-A despite playing in almost half the amount of games.
But it’s not just his statistics that have been impressive. Andujar continues to show an eye at the plate that is considered one of the best in the system. He’s learning to use his athleticism and speed on the basepaths and has also made strides as a defender.
“Every time I see him, he’s better,” the scout continued. “He handles balls and off-speed pitches extremely well, especially for a puppy. He consistently hits the ball on the screws, has home run power to all fields and rarely swings & misses. Most importantly, he’s a great, clean cut kid and is a hard worker.”
The biggest question lies in what the Yankees will do with Andujar. He’s only played the hot corner in his career and it appeared as though the organization was grooming Torres for the position.
“Torres was playing third because the Yankees thought he would be an upgrade over [Chase] Headley this season,” a National League executive stated. “I always believed his best position was second base. As long as Andujar keeps up, he’ll be the third baseman of the future.”
As it stands, Andujar is considered the seventh-best prospect in the system, per MLBPipeline. But when next season’s rankings come out, no one would be shocked if he’s ranked near — or possibly even at, depending on if Torres is named a starter during the winter — the top.
And that’s not all. If Andujar indeed stays on this pace, the Yankees will have an interesting dilemma during the upcoming offseason. Headley is having a fine season, but with the youth movement in full swing and the veteran on the last year of his contract, the Yankees may look elsewhere for their next third baseman.
And that answer may very well be Andujar.
“I’ll leave you with this,” the scout noted before finishing the conversation. “Every time I see him, he’s better. He can be a number three hitter with All-Star potential. He’s a better overall hitter than [Aaron] Judge and [Clint] Frazier. I can definitely see Andujar as the starting third baseman on Opening Day.”