It has been kind of a weird season for the New York Yankees. The pitching staff has been among the best in the league, when we all thought that the offense was going to be the squad’s calling card. The bats, on the other hand, have had their fair share of struggles.
Injuries and underperformance forced the Yankees to give some playing time to Miguel Andújar, a name that was, pretty clearly, buried in the depth chart to begin the year. After a sluggish start, he seems to be heating up. Here is how he performed in the series against the Tampa Bay Rays:
Monday: 102.2 mph home run, strikeout, 96.9 mph forceout, 108.8 mph single
Tuesday: 105.6 mph groundout, 74.4 mph groundout, 109.1 fielders’ choice out, 102 mph home run, strikeout
Wednesday: two strikeouts, 83.5 mph single
Thursday: 110.2 mph groundout, 90.2 mph lineout, strikeout
In four games from Monday to Thursday, eight out of 10 batted balls by Andújar traveled more than 90 mph, and seven left his bat at more than 95 mph. We can discuss the fact that he also struck out five times and several of those balls were hit on the ground, but the former 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up is tearing the cover off the ball. That’s a good first step!
It’s actually kind of shocking, since he had a very bad weekend against the Detroit Tigers like the rest of his teammates. Wednesday against Shane McClanahan and the Rays’ bullpen just wasn’t a good day for him, but the rest of his week could be the start of something good, or at least that’s what the Yankees are hoping for.
For the season, Andújar is up to a .247/.247/.377 line with a 71 wRC+. He still has a long way to go towards respectability, but he appears to be trending up. The lack of walks will always be a problem, but he, at least, has seemingly gotten back a long-lost ability: hitting the ball with authority.
There is absolutely no way for us to know how much the 2019 labrum surgery sapped his strength, not that he was going to be mistaken for Giancarlo Stanton to begin with. But he batted .297/.328/.527 with 76 extra base hits in 2018 for a reason.
That year, Andújar’s average exit velocity was 89.1 mph and his max exit velocity was 110.4 mph. He underwent labrum surgery when the 2019 campaign was already underway, missing most of it. His exit velocity results in 2019 and 2020 were lackluster in both average and peak, as we can see here:
Miguel Andújar exit velocity
|Season||Batted Balls||Avg. EV||Max EV|
|Season||Batted Balls||Avg. EV||Max EV|
|2017||7||96.2 mph||112.1 mph|
|2018||480||89.1 mph||110.4 mph|
|2019||37||83.6 mph||105.5 mph|
|2020||53||85.9 mph||106.7 mph|
|2021||57||89.3 mph||110.2 mph|
Again, it’s still very early to establish conclusions, but according to the data we have at hand, it appears that Andújar is hitting the ball harder than 2019 and 2020 and almost on par with what he did in 2018. The eye test seems to confirm that:
MIGUEL ANDÚJAR! The Dú can do! And he's gettin' Miggy with it! pic.twitter.com/YlhaJMRYL5— John Sterling Calls (@JSterlingCalls) June 2, 2021
Miguel Andújar, haciendo su trabajo cuando le toca. #MLBDominicana pic.twitter.com/OvR8fLCJKf— MLB Dominicana (@MLBDominicana) June 3, 2021
Many of the problems regarding Andújar as a ballplayer persist. He is still a bad defender no matter where you write his name in the lineup, and there is only one designated hitter spot. He is not fast, he doesn’t draw walks, and he isn’t a good fielder, so his value is still limited. However, the Yankees know he can hit, and he knows it, too.
How good of a hitter can Andújar be? It’s unclear at this point. But at a time in which the Yankees need all the offensive help they can get, they can ‘hide’ his glove as a left fielder, first baseman or designated hitter, and they can give him all the at-bats he can handle as long as he is in a groove, which appears to be the case right now. He will have to earn everything else that may come his way.