The Yankees may recognize newbie Brandon Drury as a promising, multifaceted youngster who’s primed for the third base gig, but Miguel Andujar is reminding the club that he’s vying for a roster spot too.
The soon-to-be 23-year-old rookie, who’s ranked No. 5 on the Yankees’ top prospects list (No. 4 among all third basemen, per MLB Pipeline) has recently demonstrated some power at the plate. On Monday night against the Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Andujar went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk-off home run. He followed that up Tuesday afternoon against the Blue Jays with his second homer of the spring — a towering shot that flew over the left field wall at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin. In four games, Andujar is 4-for-10 with three RBI.
“It’s not about sending a message. It’s about doing my job and helping the team win,” Andujar told the New York Post via a translator on Tuesday.
When New York acquired Drury in a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays last week, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that the 25-year-old’s Big League experience will give him a “leg up” in the spring battle at third base.
Questions still revolve around Andujar’s glovework and footwork — which could delay his eventual Major League callup — but perhaps the touted prospect’s performance at the plate will continue to grab the Yankees’ attention.
“He knows he is competing for something,” Cashman told the Post. “We have high hopes for him. He has already opened eyes, not with this camp, but … what he has done in his career. Competition is always good … because it brings out the best in people. When it doesn’t, it’s a learning experience for those that don’t adjust well to that competition and a chance to regroup and think through what went down and how it went down so the next opportunity they have can change the narrative.”
In 125 games between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, Andujar proved that his bat is Major League ready. He slashed .315/.352/.498 with a career-high 16 home runs, 36 doubles, and 82 RBI in 480 at-bats. He also appeared in five games with the Yankees, where he drove in four runs on two doubles.
So, what’s holding Andujar back? His defense. In those 125 games, he also committed 17 errors, and in the last four seasons, he’s racked up a whopping 91 errors.
Andujar’s defense has been suspect, but Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone is intrigued by Andujar’s makeup and high ceiling.
“So I came in expecting a lot, frankly, and I’m excited with what I’ve seen,” Boone told the Post. “I’ve seen what I feel is progress, too, on the defensive side. As I said from the get-go, I feel like he’s going to be a really good player in this league. We got a little peek at that [Monday] night. He really impacts the ball. Knows where his barrel is. Has the ability to not only make contact, but I think that power will continue to improve.”
“I think it comes down to footwork. The skill set, I don’t think there’s any question is there. So he’s got the foot speed, the athleticism, the arm strength — all of the traits you’d like out of a third baseman. But I think it’s just continuing to really get good with his footwork and get consistent with his footwork that will allow him to be consistent on that side of the ball. I feel like I’ve seen strides there from even when I watched on video, from past stuff he’s done.’’