The news of Miguel Andujar’s return to Triple-A on Tuesday came as a disappointment to some Yankees fans. After the recent success from multiple Baby Bombers at the major league level, and Andujar’s solid spring (.262/.273/.643 with 4 home runs), many were looking forward to seeing another home-grown youngster crack the Opening Day lineup and enjoy a breakout rookie season like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge had in the previous two seasons.
Instead, the Opening Day third baseman will be Brandon Drury (unless his elbow doesn’t heal). Drury, 25, brings two full seasons of major league experience and some underwhelming offensive statistics with him to the Bronx, which likely adds to the frustration of having to wave goodbye to Andujar for now.
Andujar will eventually see his time at third base. Even if Brian Cashman goes out and gets Manny Machado, he would still want to show the baseball world what Andujar can do at the major league level, and package him in a trade. Drury was brought here for a reason, which is to give Andujar more time to develop and bring another versatile infielder to the roster. Drury is obviously not a long-term solution by any means, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help the team in 2018.
While Andujar enjoyed a great spring with the Yanks (highlighted by an unbelievable first seven games, where he hit all four of his homers), Drury has quietly put together a solid one of his own. In 46 spring training at-bats, he has 11 hits with a home run and .753 OPS. It’s hard to put much weight on spring training performances, as we’ve seen in years past, but it’s still an encouraging sign when a newcomer shows he can hit.
Drury has also proven that he can hit right-handed pitching, even as a right-handed batter. The Yankees are already stacked with solid right-handed bats, but Drury provides a unique case where he hits righties better than he does lefties. Last season with Arizona, Drury finished with a better on base percentage (.323), slugging percentage (.452), and OPS (.775) against righties than he did against lefties (.302, .436, .738). He also walked more and struck out less against right-handers. When looking at his wOBA against righties, he was slightly above the league average.
To put into perspective, Drury’s slugging percentage was much better than former third baseman Chase Headley’s (despite Headley turning around and facing righties from the left side of the plate), and he had an almost identical OPS. Drury’s numbers across the board are almost all superior to Ronald Torreyes, who likely would have handled an infield position to start the season had Drury not been acquired. Again, nothing about Drury’s numbers takes your breath away, but he has shown he can be an improvement over other third base options, and can give the lineup some balance against right-handed pitching.
Drury’s 2017 campaign also showed promise when hitting to the opposite field. He finished the season with a .378 AVG and 154 wRC+ when hitting the opposite way, compared to .341 and 141 when pulling balls to left. In 2018, Drury will be shooting balls out towards Yankee Stadium’s friendly right field porch, which can help boost his power numbers. After all, we’ve seen the short porch turn some very pedestrian swings into home runs in the past.
Drury’s 2017 numbers were a slight downtick from his 2016 season, but he should at least be an upgrade over Torreyes and Headley. Andujar will have his time, but until then, there’s nothing wrong with having Drury at the hot corner. After all, there was a time where another unimpressive offensive infielder came over via trade from Arizona, and he turned out just fine: