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Last Call for Miguel Andújar

It’s easy to forget the impact Miguel Andújar had in 2018. In the context of both Yankee time and real time, it seems like forever ago. There has been a Jose Altuve walk-off homerun, a Gerrit Cole record contract, a pandemic, and multiple postseason failures. The Miguel Andújar era has been long forgotten. But once upon a time, Andújar was considered part of the Baby Bombers core. 

When Brandon Drury proved hurt and ineffective early in 2018, Andújar seized the opportunity and put up a .297/.328/.527 slash line with 23 HR, 92 RBI, and a 129 wRC+. He was tied for 3rd in baseball in doubles. Sure, there were flaws. To say Miguel was bad at third base would be generous. His -21 DRS was third worst amongst all position players, and was it so bad they subbed in Adeiny Hechavarria in the 6th inning (!!!) of the Wild Card game (it worked out). Despite his defensive shortcomings his offense was still enough to post a 2.8 fWAR, good for 5th on the team amongst hitters.

Going into 2019 it felt like Miggy Doubles was going to be a staple in the middle third of the lineup as the Yankees contended for championships annually. Then in the third game of the season disaster struck as Andújar injured his shoulder diving into third base. It was part of one of the most ridiculous injury waves I have ever seen, as the Yankees got decimated by injuries early that year.

Likely due in part to that injury wave Andújar tried to come back and contribute, returning May 4th against the Twins. He lasted 9 games, hitting .128 in the process. On May 14th it was announced he was undergoing season ending shoulder surgery. His replacement, Gio Urshela, came out of nowhere and put up 3.1 fWAR, and Andújar never got his job back.

Fast forward three years. Andújar is a left fielder now. Kind of. He has amassed only 227 plate appearances in The Show since that injury, and 290 plate appearances professionally total. He spent the pandemic shortened 2020 season bouncing between the Yankees bench and the alternative site. In 2021 he missed a majority of the season with a left wrist issue. He just hasn’t been able to get enough reps as he has tried to re-establish himself. 

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His fit on the present day Yankees is a strange one. Somewhat surprisingly he was tendered a contract this off-season, agreeing to a $1.3 million deal to remain on the roster. While he plays left field, his reps there have been limited. His best spot right now would be as a DH, and on a roster with Giancarlo Stanton and more infielders than there are starting spots, his path to at-bats is a murky one. 

2022 is a big year for Miggy. First and foremost he needs to show he can stay healthy. The best ability is availability and Andújar hasn’t been on the field consistently since 2018. Next he needs to show he can hit. Was 2018 the product of the juiced ball or is he really a guy who can hit around .300 and provide extra base hits in the masses? Finally, he needs to find a forever home at a position. Any position. The universal DH helps his cause but given the other questions, proving he can play in the field everyday would help his resume. 

But does he have a future in pinstripes? As I alluded to, his path to prove himself again is a tough one. To his credit he is having a solid spring, hitting .316 with three extra base hits in 19 at-bats at the time of this writing. However, it would likely take several injuries for him to get any meaningful at-bats in the majors this year. While he could technically still make the team, Miguel has an option left and will most certainly open the year in Scranton. There is an argument to be made that he would be useful for the last bench spot given the Yankees need to pinch hit for their catcher on most nights, but it seems more likely the Yankees will carry Marwin Gonzalez due to his versatility. 

There are long term openings on the roster. Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge are both due to become Free Agents after this year. Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo the year after that. Aaron Hicks has yet to prove he can stay healthy long term. For as blocked as Andújar seems right now, if you squint hard enough you can see a scenario where there is a spot for him a year from now. That is assuming he can meet the health and hitting criteria above. 

More likely it seems this is the last year, or even few weeks, that Andújar is part of the organization. The combination of the current roster construction and the hills Andújar has to climb to re-establish himself make it hard to see a world where he is a long-term Yankee. Chances are he will be shuffled between Triple-A and the majors to fill in as a bench bat when injury strikes in the upcoming campaign. If he mashes in Scranton perhaps a rebuilding team will come calling to see if Miggy can fill their DH role. It’s even possible he gets cut when camp breaks, given the Yankees need to open spots on the roster for a catcher and Marwin Gonzalez.

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In a way it’s a shame the way this has all played out. The 2018 hitter version of Miguel Andújar would be a great fit for the present day Yankees. His career 16.3% K% would be fourth lowest amongst projected regulars. In a line-up full of patient, high strikeout sluggers, a free swinger with a near .300 batting average would bring a breath of fresh air to the middle of the order. 

Unfortunately that version of Andújar seems long gone. If it does come back, it will most likely not be in the Bronx. Weirder things have happened though, and things change quickly in baseball. So it will be interesting to see if in 2022 Andújar can put himself back on the Yankees radar just as quickly as he fell off it. Otherwise, chances are we will have to root for him in a different uniform at this time next year. Last call for Miguel Andújar .

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