The Yankees’ Miguel Andujar backstory that stole Clint Frazier’s fieldwork | Analysis

Once upon a time, a recurring story during Aaron Boone’s first season as the Yankees manager was the strengths and weaknesses of his rookie third baseman. Miguel Andujar hit like crazy that year after starting 2018 in Triple-A, but seemed to receive as much publicity for his roster as for his offensive stats which were so good he finished second in the American League Rookie. of the Year by voting for Shohei Ohtani.

Andujar was never a third-place butcher, but his footwork and throws weren’t fundamentally solid. Over time, he would become a good defensive third baseman, Boone vowed over and over.

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And then, out of nowhere, Gio Urshela changed everything. The Yankees believed they were trading for organizational depth of field in August 2018 when Urshela was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations. Urshela had experience in the big leagues, but he was an AAA player at the time who had a well-deserved reputation as a light and efficient third baseman.

Urshela finished 2018 strong in Triple-A after changing his hitting approach, then greatly impressed the Yankees in spring 2019 training with his bat and glove. He was not part of the opening day roster, but Andujar, suffering from a torn labrum on the first weekend of the season, created an opportunity that was taken unthinkably. Urshela took over third base and shockingly became a rising star who surpassed what Andujar did the year before by hitting for average and power while playing third base like Brooks Robinson in his prime.

As for Andujar, his injury resulted in a lot more misery… more injuries, offensive struggles, options for the alternative camp and changes of position. Andujar began learning to play at left field and first baseman after the 2018 season at home in the Dominican Republic, and then the following year in spring training.

By most accounts, Andujar, 26, was unnatural in either place. He showed promise as a left fielder but was very raw, which is not surprising as he has always been an infielder. At first goal the word was that Andujar was really struggling there.

But amid constant rumors that Andujar is being used as commercial bait, the Yankees have never given up hope that he would someday contribute to them again like he did in 2018. And watch Andujar now. He started hitting in early May, continued and quickly stole Clint Frazier’s starting post from left court.

“During all this time, I wanted to stay a Yankee and keep a positive mind and a positive attitude about everything,” Andujar said. “I knew the time would come when I was going to have the opportunity to contribute. I am happy to have this opportunity now. Wherever the team needs me, I am more than happy and ready to get the job done.

Hitting surely had a lot to do with this unofficial changing of the guard – Andujar performed well last month while Frazier has been below 0.200 all season – but play on the pitch has also been factored in.

Although Frazier was a Gold Glove finalist last season, he is still an imperfect outfielder who will do bad ball readings like he did on Sunday when he misprogrammed a jump on a flying ball to left field. deep to transform what should have been a triple gift

Meanwhile, Andujar’s left court play is improving even though he is still learning some things on the fly, like making catches while running to the wall and playing balls hitting the wall. He’s probably still below par, but his jumps and readings seem to be improving constantly. He also has no errors on 45 occasions playing 224 1/3 innings from left field in 27 starts, and he has shown a strong and precise arm by racking up three assists.

“One of the first times I saw him there (in left field) a few springs ago, even though it was new to him and he had no experience, I felt like it was a natural place for him, ”Boone said before Sunday. Victory 2-1 over Oakland. “I felt like he had moved there naturally.”

And now?

“I feel like he catches the ball with ease,” added Boone. “He’s not close to a finished product, but I feel like it’s a position where he can get really good as a corner fielder. He had a few hiccups along the way. One of the things that he really now takes to another level and where that experience really plays out is how you move around, trust your reading, and then really move athletically and efficiently based on that reading, how you navigate this reading, move with speed and precision as you go around the wall.

“I was really happy with his progress and his work there, and I feel like over time he’s going to get really strong there.”

Andujar has also played a lot, having started 18 of the Yankees’ 20 games in left field since May 29, the only exceptions being the days off on June 4 and last Saturday.

Andujar’s bat, of course, is the main reason he’s so much a part of the roster. The Yankees offense heated up over the past week, but Andujar was one of their best hitters in the first half of June as most of his teammates fell apart.

His .242 average with five homers and nine RBIs in 34 games is nothing special that certainly doesn’t live up to his 2018 numbers – .292 with 47 doubles, 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 149. games – but he followed a slow start hitting .274 over his 27 games.

One possible reason Andujar strikes again after struggling in limited action over the past two seasons is because he feels comfortable as an outfielder after being heavily scrutinized as a third player. goal.

“I think there might be something to that,” Boone said. “I think he’s pretty comfortable in the outfield. And I think it maybe lightened up a bit, but that being said, we also saw a guy who’s basically won the Rookie of the Year title playing third base every day. So he’s a guy who we know he’s capable of doing really good things when he’s doing well and that’s definitely what we’ve started to see here in recent weeks.

Andujar thinks he’s capable of more, he hit five home runs in eight games from May 31 to June 9, but those are his only ones. In addition, he has just one double in 117 at-bat after finishing second in the AL with 47 in 2019.

Just keep giving Andujar consistent strikes and the extra basic hits will return, he promises.

“I believe in myself,” Andujar said. “I haven’t played a lot here in the big leagues. Now I’m getting more stable at batting and playing time. I know those numbers will come as long as I play.

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