For the most part, there hasn’t much been excitement to a Yankees game this season. Offensively, there are too many whiffs and weak grounders, as well as an overreliance on long balls. This all culminates in an offense that has scored just 89 runs, the fifth-lowest total in the league.
The past couple games against Orioles pitching notwithstanding, this offense needs something different. The Yankees as a team are falling behind in the count, failing to drive fastballs, and look generally passive at the plate. Fortunately, the team has a hitter waiting in the wings who may be able to help with some of these woes.
Miguel Andújar is a raw player, no doubt about it. He’s an aggressive swinger, but not a high-strikeout one. He can be a butcher in the field, but if he’s using his gap-to-gap power like when he drove in 92 runs on 47 doubles and 27 homers in 2018, it makes up for some of his negative defensive value. Of course, the Andújar we’ve seen since 2019 has been riddled by injuries and has slashed just .193/.219/.257 over the paltry 33 games he’s played in that span. Andújar couldn’t even escape this spring training without a trip to the IL, this time for a nerve issue and carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand/wrist.
However, Andújar finally appears to be healthy now. He’s been activated off the injured list and sent to the team’s alternate site in Scranton. It will take some time to get back to game speed, as Andújar only appeared in six games in spring training and hasn’t played since March 10. But once Andújar is ready to go, the Yankees should give him a call.
Andújar is the antithesis to the Yankees’ offensive problems. You don’t have to worry about passivity at the plate, with Andújar averaging 3.57 pitches per plate appearance and a career swing rate six-percent above MLB average. He also does his best damage on fastballs, at least when he’s right. In 2018, Andújar only swung and missed on 14 percent of fastballs, and hit .300 on the pitches. For a Yankees team struggling to catch up to the heat, getting a fastball-hunter like Andújar back in the lineup could be a benefit (though it’s worth noting that Andújar is just 10-for-53 — .189 — against fastballs since 2019).
There isn’t much swing-and-miss in Andújar’s game – his career whiff rate is four percent better than MLB average. Additionally, his zone-swing and zone-contact percentages are about six percent better than MLB average. Watching the Yankees swing and miss on strikes has been one of the most frustrating parts of this season, but that’s never been an issue for the contact-driven Andújar. He also has the ability to hit the ball to all fields, and smacks plenty of line drives, even in his down years.
The biggest issue with Andújar is his shoddy defense. There isn’t really room for him at his original position, third base, but the Yankees have had him work out at first base and left field. The Yankees have gotten next-to -othing from these positions this season, so by running Andújar out there, it’s not like they’re sitting a better alternative.
Of course, we saw just how important a lack of first base defense can be this year with the ill-fated Jay Bruce experiment, so Andújar will have to be proficient if he does end up in the field. Alternatively, they could use him as a designated hitter, but that would require playing Giancarlo Stanton in left field, something the Yankees have shied away from doing. Admittedly, finding a spot for Andújar is tricky, but if he hits the way he’s capable of, the Yankees will find room.
Miguel Andújar alone will not save the Yankees’ offense. They need more production from their best hitters across the board, but inserting a more contact-driven hitter into the lineup could provide a spark for a group that has looked dead for much of the season. Just when it looked like time was running out for Miguel Andújar as a Yankee, an opportunity has arisen. After a week or so at the alternate site, I'd hope to see a return to Yankee pinstripes for Andújar.