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Why Yankees fans shouldn’t write off Miguel Andujar

He’s not a sure thing, but there’s too much to like about Andujar to cast him aside.

Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Few Yankees players have been as divisive in recent years as Miguel Andujar. A classic example of the all-bat, no-glove archetype, Andujar’s stellar 2018 offensive season was almost undone by his equally atrocious defense at third base. Facing a crucial 2019 campaign, Andujar never got the chance to prove his worth, facing a serious shoulder injury that robbed him of his offensive prowess and ended his season after 12 lackluster games.

In his stead, Gio Urshela took over the ropes at third base and didn’t miss a beat, far outperforming expectations on both offense and defense. Although he’s a safer player than Andujar, he doesn’t have the same upside, especially being three years older.

Brian Cashman has said that third base will likely start off as Urshela’s position to lose, which is the right way to go about things after he earned the starter’s job. That doesn’t mean that the Yankees should push Andujar aside, however. His name has repeatedly popped up in trade rumors, but getting rid of Andujar now would be a mistake for the Yankees.

First of all, while Andujar has trade value, it’s not what it once was. Coming off a season lost to injury and facing serious questions regarding how it will impact his already shoddy defense and impactful hitting, Andujar will be a question mark for whichever team he’s on next year.

If that’s the case, don’t the Yankees deserve the first crack at trying to answer the riddle that is Andujar? If he’s going to be the dominant hitter he was in 2018, he might as well be that guy for the Yankees, instead of trying to trade him after one season spent on the injured list.

Besides, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Andujar can be productive for the Yankees this season. Yes, a shoulder injury could complicate things for a hitter who thrives on bat speed and a fielder whose only plus attribute is his arm strength. However, past performances tell us that there is no real pattern to a labrum tear for a hitter – some thrive, some fall, and others stay stagnant after the injury. Thus, instantly assuming that Andujar, a gifted hitter who is still just entering his age-25 season, will not be the same after his labrum tear would be incorrect.

When Andujar is at his best, he’s lacing line drives all over the diamond. This is a skillset that is rare to find in baseball today as batters have become more pull-happy and dedicated their craft to the launch-angle revolution. Andujar is a classic “hitter’s hitter” – he will take what the pitcher gives him and make solid contact.

That said, Andujar’s greatest weakness in the box is his plate discipline. Luckily, this is not something related to his shoulder injury, so it’s not like his biggest negative is going to get any worse. Instead, his injury could force him to develop better plate discipline and look for better pitches as his power gradually returns.

In the field, a lost year of development could honestly hurt Andujar at first. However, the Yankees have said they’re open to trying him at first base, and there is a path to playing time at designated hitter, a position Andujar is tailor-made for. Even if his defense remains a work in progress, there are still avenues to get Andujar’s bat in the lineup on this team. Besides, what if Urshela’s 2019 proves to be a fluke? Andujar would be an excellent insurance policy, as well as a capable injury fill-in.

Andujar’s profile as a line-drive hitter with impressive bat-to-ball contact and power should give Yankees fans hope that he’ll rebound from his shoulder injury. If nothing else, the team owes it to themselves to get the first look at what kind of player he will become after the injury, instead of giving up on him prematurely. His immediate spot in the lineup is still to be determined, but it would be a good bet to assume that Andujar will play a large role for the Yankees in 2020.