Miguel Andujar’s return to the Yankees is one of the most fascinating storylines of the Yankees’ spring training. How much is he going to play? Where is he going to play? How is the outfield and first base experiment going? All of them are legitimate questions that will be answered over time, but continue to interest fans.
The Yankees want Andujar to be able to play third base adequately, but they also want to increase his versatility. The idea is to give him reps in the outfield and first base, and spring training provides a perfect opportunity for the Yankees to rotate between all of these roles.
If Andujar can’t learn to play the hot corner without being such a liability his playing time would suffer, because the Yankees have a strong candidate for the starting job in Gio Urshela, who excelled offensively last season while playing solid defense. Andujar could show he is at least capable in the outfield and enter the rotation there, in the corners, with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier. Should he manage to excel, or at least fill in capably, at first base, he could spell Luke Voit and Mike Ford there.
Little by little, step by step, the kid can earn his playing time. If the Yankees haven’t traded him by now, it’s quite clear that they have a high valuation and it hasn’t been met by any team. Several squads have made approaches and inquiries, but nothing has come to fruition. Andujar is still a Yankee, and the team intends to use deploy him in the utility role in the corners, or DH often at least.
All indications are that Andujar is taking the position change — the attempt to increase his defensive versatility, to use a more appropriate phrase — very well. He has always been a hard-working kid that won’t lose an opportunity for a lack of trying.
The fact is that the Yankees don’t want to lose Andujar’s bat. Despite having a -15.5 defensive rating (fielding runs) on Fangraphs, the young thumper finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year race in 2018, behind Shohei Ohtani.
In his last healthy season, 2018, he was excellent with the stick. He slashed .297/.328/.527 with a .361 wOBA and a 130 wRC+. In 606 plate appearances, Andujar hit 27 home runs, scored 83 runs and drove in 92.
His 2019 was shortened because of a torn labrum that ultimately required surgery. But now, he seems ready to return with a bang. He homered in his first spring game a few days ago. Everyone related to the Yankees, from executives to staffers to players, fans, and even media want to see him thrive.
As a Yankees fan, I am rooting for Miguel Andujar to become at least a competent defender somewhere on the field. If he can surpass expectations and become above average wherever he ends up, then even better.
It’s easy to root for Andujar, I believe, because his is a feel-good story. I want to see him succeed and silence the critics against all odds. And, of course, I want the Yankees to be able to have Andujar’s bat in the lineup most nights.