When people ask me about the Yankees’ most underrated batters, I usually come up with two names. No, it’s not Gleyber Torres, or Aaron Hicks, or Brett Gardner, much less established stars like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Not even Gary Sanchez, even though he might fit the bill.
The two names I usually consider as the most underrated batters in the team are Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar. They are beasts of different breeds, but beasts nonetheless.
Voit has a keen eye at the plate, despite his swing-and-miss issues. He is capable of leading the league in walks, and he has more than enough pop to punish a mistake and send it over the fence. But today I want to focus on Andujar and why I think he is among the most underrated young batters in the American League.
A rare hitter
Andujar, despite having been around for what seems like so long, is still very young at 25 years old. Yes, he missed virtually all of the 2019 season with a torn labrum that eventually required surgery, but let’s not forget that he was the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year award in 2018.
That year, he slashed .297/.328/.527 with a .361 wOBA and a 130 wRC+. He hit 27 home runs, scored 83 runs, and plated 92 RBI. Andujar hit an astounding 76 extra bases: 47 doubles, two triples, and the 27 round-trippers.
Andujar is a unique hitter, and a very different one than Voit and the rest of the Yankees’ sluggers. He wasn’t built in the same mold than, say, Judge, Stanton, Hicks or Voit himself. He will not wow you with his walk totals, but his contact ability, power to all fields and bat-to-ball skills are remarkable and will give opposing pitchers a different approach to deal with.
Yes, it is very difficult that Andujar draws a base on balls, as evidenced by his career 4.1 walk percentage. But it is also very tough to strike him out, as he has a 16.3% career strikeout rate and a relatively high 81.1 contact percentage.
Taking Cole deep
All of those traits were evidenced against the almighty Gerrit Cole in an intrasquad game this week. The Yankees’ marquee free agent signing pitched five innings and only allowed a hit and a run.
Guess who was responsible for the hit and the run? Yes, Andujar. The young slugger took Cole deep with a laser to the opposite field of Yankee Stadium that left the yard in the blink of an eye.
Andujar may be fooled by chasing a pitch out of the zone, but he can cover the plate with the best of them and do damage on balls that most hitters can’t reach. His hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills will make him an annual contender to lead the Yankees in extra bases. In fact, I’m having a hard time coming up with an American League hitter capable of finishing a (full) season with 50 doubles and 30 homers. Maybe Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts or Anthony Rendon (the first two did it last year). Andujar almost did it as a rookie, in fewer than 150 games.
We should talk more about Andujar’s bat
The thing is that not a lot of people are talking about Andujar’s offense. And they should.
People get caught up in the discussion about where he might fit best in the diamond. He was a lousy defensive third baseman, and that, combined with Gio Urshela’s rise to the starting lineup, resulted in Andujar having no clear position.
However, manager Aaron Boone said that he has looked good in the outfield and will earn playing time there, at third, and in the designated hitter spot. Andujar may not be an everyday player, but he will be on the field regularly.
And that’s a good thing, because it will let us enjoy his best quality: a truly especial offensive player that may very well be the most underrated batter in the Yankees’ lineup.