All throughout the 2019 season, countless Yankee depth players were given the opportunity to contribute due to injures to regular everyday fielders. These replacements never missed a beat, producing numbers no one saw coming. Still, the injuries sapped the Yankees of a number of their highest-profile performers.
Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, and Miguel Andujar, weren’t able to impact the season as they would have liked, but three of them will return to the Yankees in 2020 looking like candidates for the comeback player of the year award. Today, I want to focus on Miguel Andujar, the particular characteristics he can offer the Yankees’ lineup, and how his injury has affected both himself and the players around him.
Whether you consider Andujar’s power ability, his fundamentally aggressive approach with pitches inside the zone, or his contact skill, it’s no wonder he was runner-up for the Rookie of the Year Award in 2018. His talent for hunting the ball, hitting it hard, and making constant contact led to a healthy .316 BABIP during his rookie season.
Even though the Yankees had one of the best offensive clubs in baseball last season, it’s easy to dream about how much better they could have been with a healthy Andujar. His balance of power and contact represents a unique player profile within the team’s lineup. For example, right-handed Yankee hitters with more than 400 plate appearances over the past two seasons and an 80.0% contact rate or higher, include only DJ LeMahieu and Andujar. The rest of the Yankees’ hitters are obviously productive, but Andujar brings a different skillset to the table.
In 2018, Andujar proved he is both an aggressive and fairly disciplined hitter, showing an ability to recognize pitches within the zone. That season, Andujar ranked 21st in zone-swing rate out of 144 players who accumulated more than 500 plate appearances. With his zone discipline, Andujar went on to generate a zone-contact rate of 91.8%, good for 23rd place, decimal points in front of Mike Trout, and slightly behind Anthony Rendon and Jose Ramirez.
Combine that with a .230 IS0 mark that lands him 26th for his rookie season, and you quickly begin to understand how special of a hitter Andujar is at his peak. Only Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, and Jose Ramirez, were able to make more contact with pitches inside the zone and hit them harder than Miguel Andujar in 2018. That’s pretty strong company to be around.
Of course, it stands to reason that Andujar will be impacted by his layoff due to injury. Luckily for Andujar, other players in the past have gone through the same surgery and continued to display the skills that helped them produce previously. Brian McCann, Matt Kemp, and Adrian Gonzalez give us good examples as to what might come 2020 and beyond.
Each of those players were able to maintain a similar contact percentage or better the season following their surgery. Moreover, McCann, Kemp, and Gonzalez, each underwent their surgeries during the offseason, meaning Andujar, who went under the knife last May, will have even more time to recover. Not only does Andujar get more time to heal, but he’s also receiving the surgery much younger than that trio.
Each one of these players were National League stars who overcame their injuries, once again becoming productive hitters for their teams. Andujar unsuccessfully attempted to play through his injury early in the 2019 season, but will now get a fresh start to prove he can improve on his rookie campaign. He was one of the key members that carried the Yankees through a rough stretch of injuries during mid-2018 to help the offense continue to function. 2020 is expected to be a big year for the Yankees, and hopefully Andujar can get back to being a big part of the team.