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The Yankees need to work on Miguel Andujar’s strikeouts

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The strengths and weaknesses that Andujar has exhibited are right in line with his reputation as a prospect, save for one not-so-minor detail.

MLB: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects can be a fickle bunch. Due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to the pressure to succeed, inconsistent coaching, or the considerable skill gap between the high minors and the major leagues, even top prospects can fizzle in unexpected ways once they reach the bigs. However, there are some prospects who carry on doing what they did in the minors, seemingly impervious to the change of scenery. After four weeks of games, it seems Miguel Andujar belongs in the latter category.

Of course, I mean this in a good way. Pundits expected Andujar to hit, and hit he has, to the tune of a 116 wRC+ in 98 plate appearances so far. However, I also mean this in a not so good way, in that Andujar has carried over some troubling tendencies from the minors to the majors. In fact, much of what Andujar has done at the plate with the Yankees so far - both good and bad - is right in line with what he exhibited as a prospect.

Let's start with the good parts, then. Andujar was billed as a top prospect because of his bat, with scouts citing his ability to elevate the ball and make contact with authority as key strengths. Those qualities have been readily apparent in Andujar's game so far. According to BaseballSavant, he ranks 66th among all hitters in Barrels per plate appearance, above names such as Ronald Acuna and Christian Yelich (min. 25 batted ball events). In addition, 46.7% of his batted balls were hit at speeds in excess of 95 miles per hour. Andujar is succeeding at elevating the ball and hitting it with authority, just as he did in the minors.

However, Andujar is also being aggressive to a fault, which was noted by evaluators as a weakness in his game since his minor league days. In 98 plate appearances this season, Andujar's walk rate stands at a paltry 2.0%, even below his career 6.4% clip in the minor leagues. His overall swing rate of 53.2% is the 16th highest on the MLB leaderboards, where he's sandwiched between noted hackers Dee Gordon and Tim Anderson. Andujar's O-Swing rate of 38.2% also ranks 17th in the majors, suggesting that he has an appetite for pitches outside of the strike zone. These overly aggressive tendencies are also right in line with Andujar's profile as a minor leaguer.

So, Andujar has performed as expected, in both good ways and bad ways - he has hit the ball in the air and with authority, while forgoing walks and chasing pitches out of the strike zone. Does this profile suggest a bright future or a brief career for Andujar? It all depends on how much contact he's able to make, and it's here that his performance in the major leagues to date most differs from his minor league career.

As a prospect, one of Andujar's most lauded strengths was his ability to make contact. In six minor league seasons, his strikeout rate never exceeded 20%, and last year it stood at a sparkling 13.2% at Triple-A. However, so far this year in the major leagues, Andujar's K rate stands at 21.4%. What's more, his swinging strike rate of 11.8% ranks 45th among all MLB hitters. While that isn't exactly terrible, on that leaderboard he's surrounded by names like Aaron Judge, Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez, none of whom are known for their contact-making prowess. Simply put, Andujar's contact skills haven't shown up yet.

Now, it's still early in the season, and with more time in the majors Andujar might start putting the bat on the ball on a more consistent basis. But so far he hasn't been able to do so, which is a worrying sign for his long-term success. He has done well early, but with his low walk rate, it's going to be hard for him to keep being an above-average hitter if he's striking out once every five plate appearances rather than, say, seven or eight. Andujar's track record of consistent contact in the minors suggests that he'll improve in this regard, but it's still worth keeping an eye on in the early goings of this season.