Miguel Andujar has been called up from the minors and might not have another shot at proving his worth for the New York Yankees.
The sky was the limit for the 25-year-old after the 2018 season. He was the runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year. His bat proved more than capable on the MLB level despite concerns about his fielding at third base. Andujar followed that up with a strong spring training in 2019. Everyone was rightfully excited about what more he could do for the Bronx Bombers.
Then, Andujar tore the labrum in his right shoulder and missed a month of action. The Yankees performed well enough despite his big bat’s absence. Now, through no fault of his own, he finds himself fighting for a roster spot on the deepest team in baseball.
And now, Miguel Andujar is getting another opportunity. He was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site after star second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit the IL with a sprained thumb. New York now views him as an outfielder03, but he may also spell Gio Urshela at third base.
One way or another, Andujar has to make the most of his latest call to the big league roster. He has one hit in 14 at-bats this year and unless he shows his 2018 season wasn’t a fluke, this could be his last chance in New York.
Rookie hitting machine
In 2018, there were three guarantees in life: death, taxes, and Miguel Andujar hitting a double.
No, seriously. Andujar showed so much prowess with the bat as rookie that him getting a double or any extra-base hit seemed almost automatic. On top of his solid line of .297/.328/.527, Andujar had 76 total extra-base hits, including 26 home runs and 47 doubles. Andujar’s doubles mark broke the previous record set by Joe DiMaggio.
And Andujar’s mystique wasn’t limited to just the simple raw numbers. Per Baseball Savant, the ball hit the “sweet spot” of his bat 34.6% of the time in 2018. His weighted on-base average (wOBA) was a very respectable .361. He made 36% hard contact.
And even though Miguel Andujar proved a horrific defensive third baseman with an MLB-worst -21 DRS and -16 UZR, fans were excited. The Yankees had a stud young corner infielder with a dangerous bat. The defense would come in time, but the bat mattered more.
Cue finishing second to Shohei Ohtani in Rookie of the Year voting, and Miguel Andujar had a bright future ahead.
Or so everyone thought.
Andujar’s shoulder injury last year turned the New York Yankees upside down in a way nobody could have predicted. Gio Urshela finally improved his hitting en route to batting .314 with a .369 wOBA, and posted a less offensive DRS of 1 at third base. Naturally, this meant Andujar would switch to the outfield, something countless infielders have done throughout baseball history.
The problem is even though Andujar’s bat is MLB-ready, the Yankees have more outfielders than they can handle. Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier might technically be bench players, but both would absolutely start on any other team. Moreover, Frazier has done so much with the bat in wake of Giancarlo Stanton’s injury that to bench him for Andujar would be borderline criminal. The same goes for Tauchman.
This means when it comes to Miguel Andujar, at-bats are already limited. Just where do the Yankees put him? They could use him when Tauchman or Frazier need a day off in the outfield. Alternatively, he could get another chance at third base while Urshela moves to second, but that means less at-bats for a management favorite in Tyler Wade. Wade also has a lefty bat, instantly upping his value in the Yankees’ righty-dominant lineup.
Simply put, no matter how you spin it, Miguel Andujar is more of an odd man out than Shaquille O’Neal in Munchkinland.
The worst part of it all is Andujar can absolutely provide a boost to a major league lineup. He hit .243 in spring training this year and showed his signature helicopter swing is still capable of some power. There’s rust, sure, but the player fans fell in love with in 2018 is still there.
And on whom does the onus lie to make sure that Miguel Andujar gets quality at-bats and a proper chance? Why, none other than Miguel Andujar himself. As was said before, his opportunities are already few and far between. On top of fielding, he has to show the slow start to 2020 was a fluke as well as his meager career walk rate (BB%) of 4%.
What this all boils down to is Andujar must make like Alexander Hamilton and not throw away his shot. If he wants the Yankees to keep him around, he must produce at the plate at such a level that either Tauchman or Frazier can afford to be benched if they get streaky. The good news is Andujar knows how to make the most of an opportunity. Just look at his MLB debut, when he had three hits and four RBI against the Chicago White Sox.
The bad news is Miguel Andujar is in a position where he has no choice but to earn his at-bats, which automatically makes things tougher. There is no reason to bench any of the outfielders, nor Urshela. Miguel Andujar, despite his known prowess with the bat, is being treated as little more than depth while LeMahieu recovers.
Long story short, this is absolutely Miguel Andujar’s last chance with the New York Yankees. He won’t have many opportunities from the start, so it is critical he perform well even in a limited role.
Otherwise, it’s probably best if he continues his young career on another team that can play him more regularly.