In many ways, Miguel Andujar is a victim of circumstance. The young slugger has come off an impressive rookie campaign. Yet because Shohei Ohtani had an unbelievable debut, Andujar had to settle for second place in Rookie of the Year voting. What’s more, the Yankees’ offseason pursuit of Manny Machado has led many Yankee fans to view Andujar as a trade chip for starting pitching. Andujar was good, but he wasn’t good enough to win ROY over Ohtani, and he isn’t good enough to preclude the Yankees from replacing him with Machado.
With that being said, Andujar is a talented player in his own right, and it’s a shame that recent discussions about him have focused on what he can or cannot do rather than appreciating him for what he is. To use a Beatles analogy, Let It Be is no match for Revolver or Rubber Soul, but it’s still a darn good album that lesser bands can only wish they could write. Likewise, Andujar may pale in comparison to Ohtani or Machado, but that doesn’t diminish how impressive his rookie campaign was.
We all know that Andujar’s core strength as a hitter is his rare combination of bat-to-ball ability and power. He was the only Yankee this year to hit more than 25 homers while running a batting average of .290, and the first Yankee to do so over a full season since Robinson Cano in 2013. If you like more advanced stats, only five players had a strikeout rate lower than Andujar’s 16% clip while recording an ISO higher than his .230 mark - Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Francisco Lindor, and (who else?) Machado. That’s pretty elite company.
How is Andujar able to make contact so frequently while also generating power so consistently? Part of that stems from his ridiculous plate coverage, which I noted in an August post. That’s only part of the puzzle. It’s not just that Andujar can do damage against well-located pitches; he has also found success against nearly every major pitch type.
According to Pitch Info’s pitch type classifications, in 2018 nearly 93 percent of all thrown pitches fell into one of the following pitch types - fastballs (37.8%), sliders (17.1%), sinkers (16.9%), changeups (10.5%), and curveballs (10.3%). Here’s Andujar’s batting average and slugging percentage against each of those types in 2018:
Fastballs - .270/.489
Sliders - .321/.575
Sinkers - .352/.571
Changeups - .247/.480
Curveballs - .393/.639
I don’t know about you, but I did a double take when I first looked at those numbers. Against sliders, sinkers and curveballs, Andujar basically hit like Tony Gwynn with more power. His performance against fastballs and changeups wasn’t nearly as dominant, but he still managed to slug at least .480 against them. You know you’re good when you’re doing relatively badly against a certain pitch and still running an ISO north of .200 off it.
Andujar’s feat is made even more impressive due to its rarity among rookies. That rookies should struggle against certain pitches is almost inevitable, given that they’re seeing major-league caliber stuff for the first time. That held true even for 2018’s impressive rookie class as well. By run values, Juan Soto was subdued by changeups and sliders, accruing -1.2 and -1.1 runs against them respectively. Ronald Acuna struggled against sinkers, with -0.7 runs. Gleyber Torres was exposed by both fastballs and curveballs, rating three runs below average against both pitches. Indeed, Andujar was the only rookie in 2018 with a minimum of 300 plate appearances to post positive values against all five major pitch types.
Granted, performance against pitch types is noisy because of the small sample size. Just because Andujar did well against virtually every pitch type this past year doesn’t mean that he is sure to recreate that success next year. Still, the data available to us is certainly encouraging. As far as pitch types go, Andujar exhibited very, very few weaknesses in 2018. If he can continue to do that, coupled with his extraordinary plate coverage, he’s a walking .290 average with 25 bombs. That’s certainly a player to celebrate.