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Just Dú-ing it: The rise of Miguel Andújar

The writing was on the wall for Miguel Andújar the moment Brandon Drury was acquired by the Yankees this offseason; barring injury, he was not going to be the starting third baseman.

Despite a spring training performance that only reaffirmed his talent—especially in the batter’s box, he would begin his season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, amidst migraines and vertigo-like symptoms, Brandon Drury was headed for the DL. The next day, on April 1st, the Yankees made a decision to recall Andújar from Triple-A. Knowing that opportunity is never a lengthy visitor in the game of baseball, the 23-year-old kid hit the ground running and has yet to look back.

In 53 games this season, Miguel Andújar has not only left Brandon Drury out of a job but put his name on the All-Star ballot. A key cog in the seemingly impenetrable Yankee lineup, Andújar is hitting for a team-leading .310 average to go along with a stellar .892 OPS. He’s racked up 8 homers and 21 doubles—good for 5th in MLB, despite playing 7 fewer games than the league leader, Eduardo Escobar, who has 26.

“What I’ve loved is the adjustability he’s shown. When he first got here it seemed like he struggled to kind of get going and then he caught fire and slowed down a little,” manager Aaron Boone said. “But I feel like he’s shown a real ability to make adjustments to what pitchers are trying to do to him.”

Believe it or not, Miggy is making those adjustments and only improving. Posting productive months in April and May, where he batted .289 and .290, respectively, the month of June has been a whole different ballgame. This month, Andújar is 12-for-27 (.444/.516/.926) with 4 2Bs, 3 HR, and 10 RBIs. Part of the improvement in his game has not only come from those adjustments Boone mentioned, but developing more as a hitter as he gets more reps. Andújar pulls the ball 44.4% of the time—down from 52.6% from mid-April, an indication that he is re-tooling his approach to work up the middle or to the right side. His batted balls to centerfield have spiked to 42.2%, up from 25.7% early on. Currently, 55.5% of his batted balls go to either center or right, a great sign for a developing young hitter.

Another component of his approach I found impressive was that his O-swing % has also been on a steady decline since his call-up. Miggy went from swinging at 36.1% of pitches out of the zone to 28.5% of pitches out of the zone—a solid chunk better than the league average (see graph below).

So far, Andújar has looked like the whole package. His defense, which has been an area of concern to scouts, has been the only gripe about his game. According to Fangraphs “defensive runs above average” metric, which accounts for defensive value relative to league average, Andújar ranks 20th among qualified MLB 3rd basemen, with a -5.0 rating. However, his advanced offensive metrics are something Brian Cashman could have only dreamed of. Andújar’s .376 wOBA ranks 23rd in the big leagues, and second on the Yankees behind Aaron Judge, who is 6th on that list (.406 wOBA). His wRC+ is 140, good for 21st in the majors, and right on par with names such as Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt.

For as good as Miguel Andújar has been across the board, his splits versus lefties could be an area to improve upon. Here’s what they look like:

vs. R: 51-for-150 (.340/.363/.588) 16 2Bs, 1 3B, 6 HR, 23 RBI

vs. L: 12-for-53 (.226/.276/.472) 5 2Bs, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI

An OPS drop-off from .943 to .748 is definitely significant, but something I think that can improve over time. The names of the two lefties Andújar has taken deep? Cole Hamels and Steven Matz.

So far, so good for Miggy, who has rightfully earned the praise and confidence from his manager, Aaron Boone. “I think he can be a really good hitter in this league for a long time, and he’s only confirmed that.”

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