Barring any offseason trades, Miguel Andujar is on track to suit up for the Yankees on opening day, marking the end of his long road back from a labrum tear in his right shoulder last April. The Yankees will undoubtedly be happy to have his bat back in the lineup–and they should be–but there’s plenty of reason to temper expectations for a splashy return as well.
Andujar batted .297/.328/.527 in 149 games as a rookie in 2018. That was good enough for a second place finish in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting, and his 47 doubles were a record for Yankees rookies. There’s a good chance Andujar will turn some of those doubles into home runs in the future, but there’s also reason to believe his .297 batting average will be hard to replicate. According to Statcast, Andujar’s expected batting average in 2018 was .281, well below his actual batting average. His .316 BABIP suggests he might have run into his fair share of good luck.
Miguel Andujar - Batting - 2018
Andujar batted .250 or better against all types of pitches in 2018, generally an indication that there are few weaknesses in his approach. However, he dramatically outperformed Statcast expectations when it came to offspeed pitches. The third baseman posted a .250 batting average and a strong .536 SLG% against 64 offspeed batted balls, but his xBA was a much lower .195 and his xSLG was only .364. Statcast isn’t always a perfect predictor of results, but it would be foolish to think Andujar will continue to outperform expectations to that extent forever.
Just look at the 12 games Andujar played in 2019, before he suffered the unfortunate labrum tear. Opponents were more reluctant to throw Andujar fastballs, and 20% of pitches he faced were offspeed, compared to just 12.5 percent during his rookie season.
Andujar is less susceptible to strikeouts than most of his teammates, and that will be a welcome addition to the Yankees’ lineup in 2019, but his batted ball profile doesn’t necessarily jump off the page as much as you’d expect for a player who has been given such high expectations by many fans. His 89.2 mph average exit velocity in 2018 ranked in the 62nd percentile of MLB, and his 36.5% hard hit rate ranked in the 44th percentile, alongside players like Starlin Castro, Andrelton Simmons, and Yuli Gurriel.
That’s not a knock on those players, but Andujar’s offensive ceiling could be somewhat limited if he doesn’t maintain his high batting average or become more adept at drawing walks. According to Statcast, Andujar’s 4.1% walk rate ranked in the bottom 4% of MLB in 2018. The good news is Andujar has a knack for putting the bat on the ball, and his exit velocity remains relatively consistent across all parts of the strike zone, a major key for free swinging batters.
At only 24-years-old, Andujar is still very young and super talented, but any expectations for him to vault past his 2018 results might be overzealous. After a return from shoulder surgery, simply repeating the outcome of his rookie season offensively, and improving defensively, would be a big win for the Yankees in 2020.