This week has been a real whirlwind for the Yankees and the relative health of their team. There was a COVID-19 outbreak among the coaching staff, with shortstop Gleyber Torres also testing positive and missing time. It’s unclear just how long Torres will be out, as league rules mandate he wait ten days, unless he can provide multiple negative tests while remaining asymptomatic.
Then, on Friday night, Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton were both shelved, although no IL move has been announced for either of them at time of writing. Stanton’s dealing with a nagging quad, and Hicks tore a tendon sheath in his left wrist. It’s #NextManUp all over again, and for two Yankees at career inflection points, this may be the last best chance for them to step up with the club.
Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar have both been unimpressive to say the least in 2021. Frazier has been downright awful, with a 68 wRC+ after his 149 effort last year. His walk rate is almost identical to 2020, and he’s actually striking out less, but a lack of any authority in the batter’s box has led to a shocking lack of production. His contact rate is up, but mechanical spurts and starts have robbed him of power, not just in terms of home run power, but indeed reach-the-outfield-grass power.
Andújar, meanwhile, finally got his first hit of 2021 Friday night, and indeed just the 22nd (!!) since his Rookie of the Year finalist campaign in 2018. In the immediate aftermath of re-joining the major league team, his exit velocity is the highest it’s been since 2017, although we only have 14 batted balls to judge. It should be noted that he only had seven batted balls in 2017 as well, so you can choose to be optimistic, or choose to believe that rate will be pulled down with more balls in play.
With both players, there have been criticisms around how much the Yankees have chosen to deploy them. The first thing most Yankee fans thought when Brett Gardner was brought back was that he would eat into Frazier’s playing time the moment the latter had a bad game, and while Andy has struggled with injuries, he’s also spent more healthy time either at Triple-A or the alternate site than on the 26-man roster.
With the rash of injuries and illnesses this week, both guys are going to get their share of playing time. Now that Gio Urshela’s knee is feeling normal again, we may also see both Frazier and Miggy competing for time in left field, or each guy will get starts at left and third base respectively. Wherever they are defensively, both players are bat-first, and it’s time for them to put up.
Both Frazier and Andújar find themselves at pivotal moments in their careers. Neither are washed-up veterans looking for one more chance, but neither are they budding prospects with unlimited potential. As fans, we’ve seen them at their best and what kind of damage they can do in the batter’s box. However, opposing teams have also seen the best ways to neutralize that offensive output, and Uncle Injury has seen fit to slap the two around as well. The opportunity to solidify themselves as major league impact bats is now, and they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves if they can’t remain viable options for the Yankees.