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Yankees’ Miguel Andújar may be starting to turn things around

Don’t look now, but the defensively-challenged infielder/outfielder has come alive the past week.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

By now, we probably have seen enough Miguel Andújar at third base to say that he is just plain bad out there. He fails the eye test, and small sample size defensive metrics have nothing positive to say. And while he hasn’t had that many reps in the outfield, he hasn’t looked particularly good back there either. Let’s face it: Andujar offers no defensive value. At least not so far.

But he does have offensive potential. So far, he has run a pitiful .218/.259/.327 line with a .255 wOBA and a sad 57 wRC+, before Friday’s doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles. Yet let’s not forget that only a couple of seasons ago, in 2018, he was the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year award with a .297/.328/.527 slash line and 76 extra-base hits.

He suffered a labrum injury during the 2019 campaign and here were are, roughly a year and a half later. He may still be struggling to regain his full strength, as his 85.8 mph average exit velocity in 2020 is almost three mph off his career 88.6 mph mark (this is purely speculation on my part) and he is 14th in the Yankees when it comes to max exit velocity, at 105.4 mph.

While those numbers may be concerning, don’t fully write him off just yet. Andújar is still talented and young, and as he won’t hit free agency for three more seasons after this one, the Yankees have reason to give him another chance to prove himself.

And don’t look now, but he may be starting to turn the ship around in the last few days.

Small sample size, but...

In his last seven games, Andújar has gone 8-for-26 with a double, a triple and a home run. During that span, he has a .333/.385/.583 line with a .407 wOBA and a 161 wRC+. The sample size is obviously minuscule, but given Andújar’s awful start to the season, we will take any improvements.

He is not fully out of the woods yet. For starters, we need to see him maintain this, or a similar, level of performance for a bit more time, and he will also need to improve his average exit velocity, which is still only 84.9 mph during the proposed timeframe.

Manager Aaron Boone had been hitting Andújar eighth the days he wrote his name in the lineup. He later got him up to the sixth spot, and he was the fifth hitter on Thursday, the day the Yankees - Orioles game was rained out. Getting 2018 Andújar back would be a huge boon to the Yankees’ chances of securing a playoff berth in this weird, complicated season. If not that version, then one somewhat close to it. He may have to be hidden on the diamond, but his bat at DH and as a pinch-hitter can move the needle.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will be back by next weekend, so Andújar will likely have a few more games to impress Boone and show that the recent statistical improvements are not a mirage.

There is always a place in the Yankees’ lineup for a .300 hitter with the ability to hit doubles and home runs by the dozen. Could Andujar approach that version of himself, one that we sat and enjoyed just a couple of seasons ago?