For the third straight year, the New York Yankees enjoyed a historic rookie campaign from one of their homegrown players. Following in the footsteps of Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar began to etch his name into baseball lore after permanently replacing the injured Brandon Drury at third base on April 7th.
On the final day of the regular season, Andujar smacked his 47th double, tying Fred Lynn’s American League rookie mark. It was the crowning achievement of a tour de force that could garner Andujar the Rookie of the Year Award.
2018 Statistics: 149 games, 606 plate appearances, .297/.328/.527, 27 home runs, 92 RBI, 83 runs, 47 doubles, 76 extra-base hits, 2.2 WAR, 128 wRC+
2019 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible; (arbitration eligible: 2021, free agent: 2024)
It’s hard to believe that Andujar wasn’t even on the 25-man roster when the Yankees broke camp at the end of March, considering he ended up becoming an indispensable contributor to the offense. Only Aaron Judge outperformed Andujar’s .855 OPS, 128 wRC+, and 4.6 offensive WAR. Andujar led the team with a .297 batting average.
Although Andujar’s defense has gotten a lot of attention (his -25 defensive runs saved was the second worst in MLB out of 256 position players with at least 500 innings in the field), I can’t recall the Yankees ever losing a game because of his fielding. They won plenty of games because of his hitting, though.
Twelve of Andujar’s 27 home runs either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead. Five of those dingers came in the sixth inning or later, which led the team. He also belted two grand slams this year. His first career walk-off hit came on May 4th, when he laced a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth to beat Cleveland.
Andujar was named AL Rookie of the Month in August, when he slashed .320/.344/.623, crushed 10 homers, and drove in 29 runs. The only other Yankee rookie 23 or younger to hit 10 homers and drive in 25 plus runs in a month was Joe DiMaggio. They are the only two Yankee rookies with 40 or more doubles and 25-plus home runs in a season, while Andujar is the first rookie third baseman in MLB history to do accomplish the feat.
Only 12 rookies in baseball history have smashed more extra-base hits than Andujar’s 76, including DiMaggio (88 in 1936) and Judge (79 in 2017). Other stars ahead of Andujar on that list include Ted Williams and Albert Pujols. That’s some pretty impressive company that Andujar hit himself into.
Since the Rookie of the Year Award was established in 1947, only three other AL rookies age 23 or younger clubbed 70 plus extra-base hits. Nomar Garciaparra (1997), Mark McGwire (‘87), and Fred Lynn (‘75) all won the award. Andujar’s main competition on this year’s ballot is two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Regardless of how the voting turns out, Andujar produced a rookie campaign to remember, and his future with the Yankees appears very bright indeed.