As the New York Post reported this week, Miguel Andujar is becoming a man of many gloves. Sure, he can rake if he is healthy - he had a .297/.328/.527 line with a .361 wOBA and a 130 wRC+ in 2018, his last full season - but he needs to show he is versatile enough to cover several positions adequately to have a shot at semi-regular playing time with the New York Yankees.
Kevin Kernan of the Post summed up a regular spring training day for Andujar in 2020. On early Monday, he started his day by taking fly balls in right field. Then, he took a round of batting practice, and after that, he moved to the infield to work with DJ LeMahieu at third base, his natural position. When he was finished there, he switched to a first baseman’s mitt and had some reps there.
A third baseman by trade, he failed miserably whenever the Yankees gave him the chance to defend the position on a regular basis. It wasn’t for a lack of trying: his footwork was just clumsy and his throwing accuracy wasn’t where you want it to be, even though he has spent hours working to refine his skills.
After he injured his shoulder at the start of the 2019 campaign, Giovanny Urshela ran away with the full-time third base job. Gio more than held his own with the bat and is a far superior defender than Andujar at the hot corner. Manager Aaron Boone, a few weeks ago, said that third base was Urshela’s to lose.
The Yankees were full at both the infield and outfield corners, but they were savvy and figured that injuries could eventually decrease their depth at the four positions: first base, third base, left field, and right field. Therefore, they chose to keep Andujar instead of pursuing a trade.
Entering spring training, the Yankees decided to make Andujar a jack-of-all-trades guy, a swiss army knife if you will. The team had him learn left field and first base while still giving him reps at third base. He was in for a busy spring, but anything for regular, or semi-regular at-bats.
The kid apparently took the challenge with aplomb and is giving everything he has to learn the new positions and keep himself sharp enough to be an option in the hot corner, as well.
His time is about to come
Now that the Yankees have suffered several crucial injuries, Andujar’s work and dedication is about to pay off. Outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge won’t be ready for the start of the season with different ailments, which will open up a couple of slots in the lineup.
Andujar has been taking reps at left field since the start of spring training, and reports suggest that he hasn’t looked out of place there. Granted, he is a lousy defensive third baseman, but he has put in a lot of work in there to solve the issues that plagued him in his rookie season and 2019.
If Andujar manages to be at least a little below average there, in the outfield and in first base, he could play a lot in 2020. Judge’s injury outlook isn’t looking particularly promising, Stanton is known to miss games, and the Dominican slugger could be an injury or two away from being featured regularly in the infield, as well.
Luke Voit and Mike Ford are higher than Andujar on the first base depth chart, but as the Yankees surely know by now, depth can evaporate in a hurry. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a young player learning new positions. Andujar may be needed there, who knows?
The Stanton and Judge injuries will force the Yankees to play Andujar a lot in the outfield and at the designated hitter spot, at least in the early part of the season, with Clint Frazier being the other clear beneficiary. Andujar has proven that his bat can play at the major league level, but can his outfield defense? We’ll be lucky enough to see him there soon, and we are about to find out if he can be a passable outfielder.