The Yankees are in unprecedented awards territory. Only three teams have had a player win the American League Rookie of the Year Award in back to back seasons: the 1958-59 Washington Senators, the 1986-88 and 2004-05 Oakland Athletics and the 2000-01 Seattle Mariners. With Aaron Judge reigning as last year’s unanimous AL Rookie of the Year, the Yankees could be in the fortunate position of having back-to-back rookies of the year thanks to the strong performances of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. Which infielder will win the crown?
Coming into the season, the consensus was that this was Shohei Ohtani’s award to lose. The two-way phenom sure is talented, but he has run into a series of challenges that have hurt his case. For one, Ohtani is a pitcher first, but he hasn’t pitched since June 6 and may not pitch again this year due to injury. And while he is a good hitter, he doesn’t hit well on the road or versus lefties, and doesn’t play the field at all. His case might be too narrow to win Rookie of the Year.
That leaves Torres and Andujar as the other main contenders for the award, and boy, is this a case with a hung jury. Both players have been so valuable and important to the Yankees this year that it is almost impossible to decide who has the edge in the voting. Things may very well change from now until the end of the season, and it is likely that whoever finishes the season strongest will win the award. As of now though, here’s why each player should win the award.
The Case for Andujar
If you like shiny offensive stats that look nice on the back of a baseball card, then Miguel Andujar is your guy. Andujar has lit up the offensive leaderboards this summer, leading all AL rookies in runs, hits, extra-base-hits, RBI and OPS. In a vaunted Yankees lineup, he is one of the best overall hitters on the team.
Andujar is not without some limitations, however. For one, as pure of a hitter he is, he is just as much of a butcher in the field. Andujar has a good arm and makes most of the routine plays, he has limited range and leads the team in errors. Some of those errors have directly cost the Yankees leads or even wins, such as in Cleveland and Boston. Andujar also has poor plate discipline and is an average baserunner.
Andujar makes up for these shortcomings by being a great hitter. He’s also been remarkably clutch, and has been a constant spark in the Yankees’ lineup, almost never enduring a cold streak. Although Andujar still looks like a rookie in the field, he is a top-notch hitter. Andujar also has the health advantage over Torres, who missed three weeks with a hip strain and hasn’t been the same since.
The Case for Torres
While Andujar has been a steady rock for the Yankees this year, Gleyber Torres has had some ups and downs. When Torres burst onto the scene, his peak was higher than Andujar’s. It seemed as if there was something that Torres did in every game that directly helped the Yankees win. Yet his cold stretches have been far worse than Andujar’s.
Andujar’s value comes almost exclusively at the plate, but Torres is not a total loss in the field. Although he is new to second base as a converted shortstop, Torres has been better at second than Andujar at third. Sure, Torres has made some errors too, but they have been mostly outweighed by some truly rangy plays that no Yankees’ second baseman has made since Robinson Cano’s glory days.
Torres has been almost as clutch as Andujar and is a more versatile hitter. Torres is more likely to hit the ball the other way than Andujar, hits the ball harder, and has the same amount of home runs and six less RBI in over 100 fewer plate appearances. Torres has also batted up and down the order and faced higher leverage spots, while Andujar has only recently graduated from the lower third of the order. No matter how you slice it, Torres is also an elite hitter, and perhaps the better all-around player.
In cases of split award voting, oftentimes voters take the “what have you done for me lately” approach. In that respect, Andujar has earned a definite edge over Torres. Torres is barely batting .200 over his last 30 games, while Andujar is slashing .336/.375/.558 over that span. If things continue like this until the end of the season, then Andujar should have the Rookie of the Year Award in his sights.
If Torres regains his form and finishes the season strong, I’d bet on Torres taking the award. While Andujar does one thing really well, Torres is more versatile and has shouldered the larger load in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. He has also received more national exposure than Andujar, which certainly helps his case.
In the end, the voters can’t go wrong with picking either of these guys. While Andujar may have momentarily jumped ahead, it remains to be seen how Torres will respond down the stretch and into the postseason. No matter who wins the award, the Yankees will win as well, and that’s what matters most.