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Trey Amburgey deserves a shot with the Yankees

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Given the state of the Yankees’ outfield, the longtime minor leaguer has earned some at-bats in the Bronx. Will he get them?

MLB: FEB 29 Spring Training - Tigers at Yankees (ss) Photo by /Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Yankees’ regular center fielder, Aaron Hicks, is injured and won’t return this year. That has resulted in a whole mess of problems for the Yankees, who have been unable to field a worthy replacement at the position because Brett Gardner is struggling (.195/.301/.299 line with a 72 wRC+) and Mike Tauchman was traded (and hasn’t fared much better in San Francisco). But that’s not the only problem.

Miguel Andújar (.250/.280/.368, 78 wRC+) and Clint Frazier (.186/.313/.317, 83 wRC+) have been almost as bad as Gardner, and the Yankees have had a hard time putting together a competent outfield. Giancarlo Stanton, the regular designated hitter, is preparing to play some outfield innings, but it won’t be a frequent arrangement. And sadly, the Yankees can’t just clone Aaron Judge and put him in left, center, and right.

As the team scans the trade market and could potentially bring external help before July 30 (Ketel Marte? Starling Marte? Kole Calhoun? Bryan Reynolds?), help is needed now. Given the struggles of Gardner, Andújar and Frazier, there is no harm in trying Trey Amburgey, who is currently tearing up Triple-A pitching.

The 26-year-old Amburgey doesn’t project as a long-term regular, but perhaps he is good enough to provide a short-term spark to the outfield position. I mean, we are three months into the season and perhaps the Yankees have seen enough of the slumping trio.

Never a top-10 prospect or even a household name for evaluators, Amburgey has quietly found his way to Triple-A, and is having a highly successful 2021 season. After hitting .274/.329/.494 with 22 homers and a 106 wRC+ in 510 Triple-A plate appearances in 2019, he spent some time in the Yankees’ alternate training site last year and was assigned back to Scranton Wilkes-Barre to start 2021.

It seem — albeit in a small sample — that Amburgey has taken his offensive game to another level. In 118 plate appearances, the 26-year-old is hitting .356/.407/.663 with six homers, a 174 wRC+, and a 1.070 OPS.

Amburgey strikes out often, but at 24.6 percent, it may be manageable. Perhaps more importantly, the right-handed hitter has managed to improve his walk rate from 2019 (6.3 percent) to 2021 (9.3 percent) and that could help him if the Yankees decide he is worth a shot.

Again, there is no harm in finding out what he can bring to the table. It may be difficult from a roster spot perspective, but the Yankees can’t keep fielding Andújar and Frazier and expecting things to change.

Amburgey’s hit and power tools have advanced enough for him to have a .356 average and a .308 isolated power in Triple-A. The next couple of months will be huge for him, whether they come in Scranton or in the Bronx, because he will have to prove he can keep at least some of those gains over a full season.

At first sight, Amburgey’s batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, is sky-high at .431, and should come down. But a high BABIP is often proof that the hitter is punishing the ball frequently and can move his legs. Amburgey hits a lot of line drives (28.6 percent in 2021) and fly balls (40.3 percent) and that is a very good sign.

Of course, if we have learned anything this year, it’s that the jump from Triple-A to the bigs is harder than ever. You can ask Jarred Kelenic and, to a lesser extent, Wander Franco about that. Another good comparison might be found in Amburgey’s teammate, Chris Gittens, who like Amburgey did not have much of a prospect pedigree and took his lumps during his Yankees cameo before returning to Scranton.

However, given the current state of the Yankees’ outfield — and the fact Amburgey is able to handle both outfield corners and even center field in a pinch — the 2015 draft pick deserves a shot to see what he can do.