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Could the Yankees turn Miguel Andujar into an outfielder?

Putting one of the possible answers to the third base question to the test

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

Few things drive debate in Yankee discourse like what to do with Miguel Andujar. A lost season on the heels of a Rookie of the Year finalist year in 2018 puts pretty big error bars around his 2020 projections. Furthermore, the emergence of Gio Urshela as an equally good hitter and better defender casts some doubt on whether Andujar has a position to play on next year’s Yankees.

One of the solutions to this logjam could be setting Andujar in the outfield. There’s certainly a spot for another outfielder on this team - Aaron Hicks is out until at least June with Tommy John surgery, Brett Gardner is still a free agent, which is curious in itself, and the Yankees don’t seem comfortable with using Giancarlo Stanton as a full time left fielder. Aaron Judge and Mike Tauchman have their roster spots locked up, but there’s an opening if Andujar is the right guy to fill it.

On raw athleticism, Miguel might fit the bill. He’s one of the quicker 3B in the league, with a 27.8 ft/s sprint speed in the top quartile of all guys at the hot corner in 2018. His shoulder injury wouldn’t affect his legs obviously, and he’s only 23, so it’s entirely possible he’s still as fast as ever, and that plays well in a big Yankee Stadium left field. He’s always had a plus arm, with FanGraphs giving him a 70 tool arm in their 2018 prospect rankings.

So, good speed and a good arm, those are two key traits for any outfielder. Andujar’s horrible defensive metrics at third aren’t really the end of the world either; Ryan Braun was his closest comp in terms of just how bad he was as an infielder, and while Braun isn’t a good defensive left fielder, he’s not costing his team, especially when he hits like he can.

And that’s really the key - there’s no position on the diamond better suited for good hitters who are terrible fielders than left field. Baseball history is littered with players hidden in the corner who were feared at the plate, and Andujar could fill that same gap. The positional adjustment for left field is super generous, meaning all projection systems acknowledge left is not a spot for your best fielder.

The catch is, you need to be a really good hitter. Over the last ten years, left fielders have hit to a 107 wRC+, while third basemen have managed a 98. The offensive floor is just higher in the outfield, so if Andujar takes a step back at the plate in 2020 - when he’s projected for a 104 wRC+ - suddenly he’s a below average offensive left fielder, learning a new position in one of the larger corners in the American League.

There’s no easy answer to the Andujar quandry, but unless a team swoops in with an impressive trade offer, it’s probably a problem best solved on its own. He’s a talented hitter who’s probably due for regression, he could likely be exposed anywhere on the diamond you put him, but he’s “blocked” at third by a guy with no MLB track record. I expect the Yankees will wait and see what Urshela is before any decision is made on Andujar, within the organization and defensive alignment or otherwise.