Every Yankee and Pirates fan remembers the Gerrit Cole saga from before the start of the 2018 season. The rumors would go from “the Yankees are close to acquiring Cole” to “the Yankees haven’t talked to the Pirates in a week” or vice versa every hour, until eventually he was traded to Houston.
After the trade, it came out that the Yankees refused to include Miguel Andujar in any trade, and that’s what led to the downfall of the Cole to the Yankees trade. A lot of MLB fans, Yankee fans included disagreed with this, as they thought, “the Yankees have enough offense, they need pitching and Andujar is expendable!“ At the time, this was believed to be true. Brandon Drury was in line to start at third base and he showed a lot of promise with Arizona, Giancarlo Stanton was put in the DH role, and Greg Bird was (and I believe still is) the future at first. So where was Andujar going to play?
Well, things in baseball never work out the way they’re supposed to. Only 8 games into the season, Drury found himself on the DL with head issues that were causing severe migraines and blurred vision. This was Miguel Andujar’s chance to finally prove himself and show he’s an everyday big leaguer. The only problem was, he didn’t.
His first 30 games left much to be desired, as Andujar hit to a .271/.287/.466 triple slash with a .318 wOBA, a 99 wRC+ and an abysmal 2.5 BB%. He was swinging at pitches out of the zone at a 40% clip, 10 percent higher than major league average, and he was swinging at a 53% clip, 8% higher than major league average. He wasn’t everything he was supposed to be, and fans were letting him hear it. Yankees twitter wanted him optioned back to the minors or they wanted him traded. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.
Since his May 11th, his 31st game, and entering play on September 5th Andujar has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball. He’s hit his way to a .306/.344/.542 triple slash with a .374 wOBA and a 137 wRC+ with just a 15.8% K%. On the season, he’s on pace for over 80 extra base hits, and he seemingly always comes in clutch, as 9 of his 20 home runs either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead. With the struggles of Gleyber Torres, Andujar has taken over the lead for AL Rookie of the Year as well.
Here’s a list of rookies age 23 and under who had at least 80 extra base hits:
- Albert Pujols in 2001.
- Joe DiMaggio in 1936.
- Ted Williams in 1939.
Miguel Andujar is on pace to join a group that is made up of three of the best hitters to have ever lived.
Expand the criteria to just any aged rookie with 80 XBH, and you add Dale Alexander and Johnny Frederick, two players from the 20’s who were 26 and 27 when they reached achieved this feat, respectively.
By now you understand Miguel Andujar has been an incredible hitter this season. The Yankees front office has long said they think Andujar can be a star, but even they couldn’t have predicted what Andujar has been.
Here’s where “Miggy” has caused a problem: his bat has forced his way into the Yankees future plans.
“But if his bat is so good, how is that causing a problem?” you may be asking.
Miguel Andujar is causing a problem in the most frustrating of ways: he is absolutely horrendous at defense.
Andujar has posted a -24 DRS at the hot corner so far in 2018, which puts him at the 2nd worst DRS in baseball out of any position, and he’s dead last in 3B ranks, with Phillies 3B Maikel Franco who sits at -14 DRS. When it comes to 3B ranks, he’s also last in UZR/150, UZR, and Fangraph’s defensive ratings.
Simplest way to put it: Miguel Andujar is the worst defensive 3B in baseball, and that’s where the issue lies.
In my opinion, the three positions you need the best defense are at centerfield, shortstop and third base. The reason third base is referred to as the “hot corner” is because it sees so much action and balls are hit hard at the third baseman. In 2017, third baseman saw 7008 defensive opportunities, the most of any position not up the middle.
As much as I love Andujar, and it pains me to say this, but Miguel Andujar is not the future at third base.
Now before Yankee fans start to crucify me for saying that, Miguel Andujar has a future with the Yankees and it better be a long one. It just isn’t at third base.
With everyone healthy, the Yankees everyday lineup would look something like this:
Brett Gardner, LF
Aaron Judge, RF
Didi Gregorius, SS
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Gary Sanchez, C
Aaron Hicks, CF
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Greg Bird/Luke Voit, 1B
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Clearly one of the strongest lineups in baseball, and it’s only going to get better this offseason.
Jon Heyman has reported that Manny Machado would only be willing to play third base for the Yankees, but wants to play shortstop for everyone else. Machado would instantly provide an upgrade over Andujar, since Machado is one of the best hitters in baseball and is also a gold glove caliber third baseman. However, where does Andujar play then?
My idea is pretty simple. Move Andujar to DH, Stanton to left field, and pick up Gardner’s 2019 option to be our 4th outfielder. If 2018 has taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too much outfield depth.
Yankee fans have long expected Bryce Harper in pinstripes for the 2019 season, but Miguel Andujar has been such a good hitter, that he’s making Bryce Harper signing with the Yankees less and less likely.
Clearly, Greg Bird has struggled mightily this season and Luke Voit has been on a tear since he was traded to the Yankees, and if the Yankees work with Andujar long enough he might become a viable 1B option if Bird never reaches his potential or Voit doesn’t pan out, and then that leaves a position open for a Bryce Harper signing, but ultimately that doesn’t add as much value to the Yankees as you’d think, so that money might be better off used somewhere else, contingent on Machado signing with the Yankees obviously.
Andujar has been better than the Yankees ever could have imagine, and he’s cemented himself as a key piece for the Yankees future. He’s causing the Yankees a major lineup problem, but that just shows how good his bat is.