Miguel Andujar might have a claim as the best hitter in the Yankees farm system. If Brandon Drury struggles, the calls for Andujar’s promotion will be loud. There are questions about his defense, but the bat is for real. It’s special. He’ll also start to see a bit of time at first base this season to give him more opportunities to break into the New York lineup.
Position: Third base
Weight: 215 pounds
Acquired: Signed for a reported $750,000 bonus as an international free agent in 2011.
Best year of his career. Andujar batted .315/.352/.498 with 36 doubles, two triples and 16 home runs across Double-A and Triple-A. But he really shined with the RailRiders. In 58 games, he batted .317 with a .502 slugging percentage,and 23 of his extra-base hits. He also only struck out 71 times in 480 at-bats, but walked just 29 times. His performance at the plate earned him the Yankees’ Kevin Lawn award, which recognize’s the organization’s top hitter. Defense is the main question surrounding Andujar. He made 17 errors in 115 games.
This is something a little bit different than what’s been done with this list. Below, Donnie Collins and I discuss why Andujar comes in at No. 4, what we like about him and what might need some work.
CF: Now we’re really into the big names. Miguel Andujar comes in at No. 4. Full disclosure, I had Andujar at No. 2 on my ballot, but I might have bumped him down to No. 3 after seeing one of the other guys in Tampa. That’s not a knock against Andujar though. After seeing him for half a season last year, I love his bat. Love it.
DC: He can really hit. I saw him for the first time when he was 18 in spring training a few years back. One of the player development guys and I always had a back-and-forth about the young guys I should know about for the distant future. Andujar was the guy that year and he has really come along in every regard. He could hit back then, but he’s making much stronger, more consistent contact now. Defense has always been the big concern with him, but it’s easy to see how far he has come in that regard.
CF: He’s such a good hitter. We heard some people throw an Alfonso Soriano comp on him last year, and that’s pretty close from the perspective of the way he impacts the ball. But what’s crazy about Andujar is how good he is at making contact. He doesn’t strike out at all for a guy in today’s game. And when you look at the roster in New York, with the big hitters who are also big strikeout guys, Andujar becomes all the more valuable.
DC: There’s no doubt, if it was just about offense, he’d be there now. He is more of a line drive guy, but he goes line to line, and he is going to learn to drive the pitches with power that he should. He’s an interesting case. There’s obviously a big free agent on the market this offseason who can settle third for a long time. But to me, Andujar is a potential .300, 25-30 homer guy down the road. Don’t you want to give that a look first?
CF: That’s probably a discussion for a different time, but to me, the timing is just a little off. If the big crop of free agent third basemen was two years away, then yeah, Andujar could get a good look and you could decide if he’s the future or not. But when you have so many other pieces in place with the team and you have dynasty dreams, it might be easier (and safer) to go out and get the proven entity. That said, going with Andujar long term would really signal a turning point with the franchise, because the Yankee Move would be to get the $300M guy.
DC: The Yankee move might be to stay under the luxury tax threshold. But I think it’s less about money and more about what this guy can do. And Andujar can do a lot. They wanted him last year to improve his footwork and stop throwing sidearm so often. He struggled with it. But that can be worked on, and everything else is legitimately ready for the big leagues.
CF: Andujar’s defense was a legitimate concern last year. It was very mechanical and you could tell he was kind of thinking too much. But — and this isn’t just spring training best-shape-of-his-life talk — he’s looked a lot better in camp. More confident. More decisive. And it’s good to see he’ll be getting more reps at first because, I don’t know if you saw this, but the Yankees have a bit of a first base issue right now. Someone told me on Twitter it was a bad idea because you’re taking away his best attribute in his arm. But his arm is also his worst enemy at times. And Andujar picking up first base is really just to make him more versatile and get him more opportunities in the lineup.
DC: I don’t know where the “his best attribute is his arm” thing came from. He has a really strong arm, for sure. But he has good range too. I think his footwork is really the problem there, and like I said, it can be fixed. His best attribute is his bat, and I really like the fact they’re letting him get some time at first. Because he has been very durable, and the bat would play there.
CF: Yeah it’s really just a case of the arm being strong. But I’m with you, his bat is going to keep him around for a very long time.
15: Ben Heller
14: Jonathan Loaisiga
13: Dillon Tate
12: Domingo Acevedo
11: Thairo Estrada
10: Chance Adams
9: Billy McKinney
8: Domingo German
7: Freicer Perez
6: Albert Abreu
5: Luis Medina
4: Miguel Andujar
Associated Press and Times-Tribune photos