Miguel Andújar Is Another Good Young Yankee

Miguel Enrique Andújar was born in San Cristóbal, in the Dominican Republic, on March 2nd, 1995. That same day, 968 miles north and northwest of the newborn child, the space shuttle Endeavour launched itself into low-earth orbit, bearing five men and two women. It returned to eastern Florida 16 days later, flew 17 more missions over the next 16 years, and was finally decommissioned on the first day of June, 2011. Andújar, now 23 years old and a finalist for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award, remains in active service.

In 2018, Andújar took 606 plate appearances for the Yankees. In 239 of those appearances, he reached base by hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch. 15 of those hits came in a seven-game stretch in April during which Andújar recorded a 1.706 OPS and joined Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as the only Yankees to record seven straight games with an extra-base hit before turning 25. Of his hits, 47 were doubles, which tied an American League rookie record set by Fred Lynn in 1975 and vaulted Andújar past DiMaggio, this time, into the Yankee record books. Andújar also hit 27 home runs in 2018, and his 128 wRC+ was third-best among AL hitters under 25, behind Francisco Lindor and Alex Bregman.

I don’t know if Andújar tipped his servers well in 2018, or brushed his teeth every night without fail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. He did a lot of things right in 2018. And he was part of a powerful Yankees infield that included Didi Gregorius and Gleyber Torres.

It’s due to the presence of Gregorius and (especially) fellow rookie Torres, however, that Andújar has perhaps received fewer accolades than one might expect for a Yankees rookie who just produced a three-win season. Andújar won’t win the Rookie of the Year Award. Shohei Ohtani will, probably — and if he doesn’t, it’ll be Torres. Andújar is regarded as merely the second-best young infielder on a very good Yankees team, which hides to some extent the fact that he’s a pretty good player in his own right. It doesn’t help that the obvious holes in his game — a lack of plate discipline, a worrying tendency towards pop-ups, questionable performance at third base — have created the impression around the game that any success he recorded in 2018 is, well, a bit of a fluke. There are some reports that this is a view shared by the Yankees front office.

When Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked Andújar 14th on our 2018 Top 100 Prospects list, they said this:

Andújar has tantalized scouts since early in his pro career with a strong, athletic frame and flashy tools that are above average to plus across the board. He largely was seen as potential, even passed over by all 30 teams in the Rule 5 Draft after the 2015 season, then he broke out in a huge way in 2017, reaching a critical mass of adjustments and maturity that showed up in the counting stats.

Andújar has cut down on his swing-and-miss while also lifting the ball more and hitting it with more authority, an obviously rare and desirable combination when you’re already working with a toolsy prospect who was always young for his level. There’s still some lingering maturity questions and mental lapses on defense, but that didn’t stop the Pirates and other clubs from demanding Andújar in recent trade talks with the Yankees, who refused to discuss him.

Sometimes prospects do this. You can’t see any one particular reason why they should succeed, given their very obvious shortcomings, except that it is clear that they have. People still wonder when Kyle Hendricks will finally be bad, like he’s always supposed to have been. People couldn’t figure out Paul Goldschmidt for the longest time. The last time Andújar had a wRC+ below 100 at any level was in 2016, when he was promoted to Double-A at the age of 21. His wRC+ for those 319 plate appearances in Trenton was 89. The next year, last year, his wRC+ at the same level was 126, which got him moved up to Triple-A. He posted a 139 mark in 250 plate appearances there, then tacked up eight plate appearances in the Bronx to round out the season. He has not sniffed the minors since.

We ranked Andújar 14th last year. BP didn’t include him in their Top 100. As far as I can tell, both organizations assessed Andújar about the same: big tools, good numbers, bad defense, and questionable plate discipline. The gap between 14 and somewhere more than 100, then, lies almost entirely in what you make of a reality that continues to defy expectations.

I looked over almost all of Andújar’s numbers from 2018 in the course of writing this post. (Yes, there is a complete list, somewhere in the FanGraphs archives, of “all the numbers.”) I couldn’t find anything that suggested that he improved over the course of the year, or changed fundamentally from what he was coming into it. His swing rate stayed about the same throughout the year. His walk rate careened between acceptable and abysmal, roughly on a plane with his wOBA. He got worse, and better, and stood out and hit 47 doubles, all while remaining pretty much the same player he was when he was fairly ranked somewhere between 14th and more than 100 among all big-league prospects coming into the season. He was what he is is a tautology; it is also, I think, a way to better understand this particular Yankee. What you think Andújar is comes down to whether you care more about what he’s done than about what he could do.

Nobody complained when the space shuttle Endeavour didn’t make it to the moon in early March, 1995. It wasn’t meant to — it was meant to make some observations about UV radiation from space and test the capacity of a particular type of payload system to withstand motion disturbances. It did those things, and returned safely to Earth. Miguel Andújar isn’t the best young hitter on the Yankees, and he won’t be the American League Rookie of the Year. He was, last year, yet another good young Yankee. If the past is any predictor, he’ll be the same thing again next year, his third in active service. The 2018 season was a good one.

We hoped you liked reading Miguel Andújar Is Another Good Young Yankee by Rian Watt!

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Rian Watt is a contributor to FanGraphs. His work has appeared at Vice, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and some other places too. By day, he’s a public policy researcher in housing & homelessness. By night he tweets.

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45 Comments on "Miguel Andújar Is Another Good Young Yankee"

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I wonder what Andujar would look like in right field, with that great arm. But the Inside Edge fielding metrics have him at the bottom of their bucket for “likely” plays, and waaaay below the bucket for “even” plays. He had nine plays that were 50/50 shots according to Inside Edge. He converted one of them.

I wonder what on earth is going on, because by all accounts he’s very athletic but the problem in the minors was that he was an error machine. He’s been a little below average in terms of errors, but you wonder if he’s giving some of that back by being too cautious. I think there is a very good chance he’s just not cut out for third base, and maybe he’d do better at first base or right field (do the Yankees have an opening in RF? I hear they don’t have anyone to play there…)

Bortky
Member
Bortky

This is the whole controversy with Andujar. His bat plays wonderfully, but the errors are a killer. It is why he was taken out of the WC game in the 6th after making the throwing error. It’s hard to rely on a player when you have to hold your breath every time the ball is hit to him.

Kevbot034
Member
Kevbot034

At a -25 DRS or -16 UZR (-24 UZR/150), this article is maybe even too kind to him about his defense, just calling it questionable. Defensive numbers that bad are what kept him from winning RoY. Had he been even average, his WAR would be much better and people wouldn’t keep overlooking him. It would be such a shame to waste the arm at 1B, and he’d probably still be bad there, but something needs to be done to get him to hit and not field.

Tony Wisconsin
Member
Tony Wisconsin

Yankees currently have Hicks, Judge, Ellsbury, Stanton (primary DH), Gardner (fourth OF), and Frazier under contract for next season. Already six guys for three spots.

Ellsbury is still owed $47 million, and hard to see anyone taking him, even with the Yankees paying most of that. If they move Hicks (selling high on a free agent after next season) and play Ellsbury/Gardner in CF, that opens up a spot. But both are entering their age 35 season, and I’m not sure you can depend on them staying healthy and productive.

I would think it more likely that they move him for starting pitching than experiment with him in the outfield.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Yeah, I know, it was a joke. Considering they have three natural right fielders (Stanton, Judge, and Frazier) I can’t imagine that they’d try Andujar in RF. 1B is more likely, but it seems like such a waste of that beautiful arm. That said, I don’t think they’d trade him for anyone who they could actually get. You think they’d trade him for Jameson Taillon? I’m not sure either team would actually want to do that deal. I doubt they’d want to trade him for Greinke, given his enormous contract. There just aren’t any teams that are selling top pitchers right now.

Tanned Tom
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Tanned Tom

Andujar and Ellsbury for Greinke?

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

It would be easier for the D-Backs to eat some cash rather than deal with a second no-trade clause.

I just noticed an item that the Mariners might consider trading James Paxton. I bet that Andujar would get the conversation started, but I’m not sure that the Yankees would be willing to the pay the price (likely some combination of Sheffield, Frazier, Loisaiga) that they’d have to also throw in to make it happen.

emh1969
Member
emh1969

Is Paxton really worth Andujar + prospects? He’s never pitched more than 162 innings, is under team control for only 2 more years, and has a significantly higher ERA than FIP the past 3 years.

Honestly, I’m not sure I’d do Andujar straight up for Paxton, given the extra years of control that Andujar has.

oozyalbies1
Member
oozyalbies1

As a Yankee fan, I would take that deal straight up. I likely wouldn’t pair Andujar with any other 50+ prospects like Sheffield, Frazier or Florial, but I could part with a 40-45 type prospect for Paxton.

Paxton has compiled 11.9 fWAR over his last three years, despite being limited by injuries. He’s averaging more than 5 fWAR per 180 IP. If he could stay healthy (big IF), he’d be a huge addition to a team that has a massive excess of righthanded power and a relative deficiency of starting pitching.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Thinking through it, I don’t think Sheffield would belong in a deal with Andujar for Paxton. I’m not sure what I think about Sheffield, but the Yankees brass seems to love him.

But Andujar + Loisaiga/Frazier + some other guy who is Rule 5 eligible would definitely do it. And I think it would be a win-win. But I also think that the Yankees would not actually spring for that, because they’re convinced Andujar can be a 3rd baseman. And as long as he’s seen as a 3rd baseman, I really doubt they’ll trade him.

As far as Paxton goes: He’s a total beast. He would rival Severino as the best starter on the staff on a per inning basis (although likely for many fewer innings!), and I think that no one would top them if Andujar was the headliner. Going lower than that allows a team like the Braves, Astros, or Brewers to swoop in (I mean, the Braves could outbid an offer of Andujar if they really wanted to, but I doubt they would).

Jon
Member
Jon

Ellsbury and ~$10M or maybe a 2nd-tier prospect for Greinke is much more realistic, value-wise.

Jon
Member
Jon

No? I’d say Ellsbury is worth about -$40M and Greinke about -$30M. Where do the downvoters disagree?

emh1969
Member
emh1969

If he can play right, the Indians would seem to be natural trade partners. They’d probably have interest in him at 1B as well but they’d have to move EE or Alonso in a separate deal to make it work.

Monsignor Martinez
Member
Monsignor Martinez

I was thinking of something like Kluber + Alonso for Andujar + Frazier

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

Monsignor, You don’t believe in Voit?
And what of Bird?
A Cleveland deal might be Andujar + Hicks + minor league pitcher.

emh1969
Member
emh1969

Yeah, I think something like Andujar + Hicks + a MLB ready minor league pitcher would mostly work. Indians might want a bullpen arm as well. And maybe toss in Sonny Gray who has little value for the Yankees but could be a decent bounce back candidate for the Indians.

Anyway, Jon Heyman reports that the two teams met yesterday to discuss Kluber and Carrasco.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Kluber is something like the #12 asset in all of baseball, based on contract and performance (at least according to this website). For context, Yelich–who clocked in at something like #22 mid-season, at #27 at the time of the trade–netted an FV60, an FV55, an FV50, and an FV40. Andujar + Frazier is like 35-55% of what it should take. (FWIW, Andujar was an honorable mention midseason.

It’s hard to find a trade for Kluber because Cleveland is in the middle of a big competitive window, and I can’t see how they’re going to accept a bunch of guys in high-A when the division is ready for the taking right now. But if they’re looking for Juan Soto or Andrew Benintendi, I think they’re going to be rather disappointed..

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

Sadtrombone: That’s why Cleveland and NYY match.
Cleveland ‘s lineup is swiss cheese, they’re not going to spend, and they can cough up one dominant pitcher and still win the division.
Yankees have roster space issues, lots of OF, and need another dominant pitcher. (Assuming Severino was only tipping pitches.)

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

Cleveland is selling a top pitcher.
Kluber in pinstripes is not impossible.

They would play him in the OF. At least until Encarnacion leaves.