The general sense around baseball is that there’s a two-man race for American League Rookie of the Year. On the East Coast, the New York Yankees have 21-year-old infielder Gleyber Torres, and out on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Angels have two-way Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.
Both players have already demonstrated their flair and poise in the early stages of this season, and in a sport that’s rapidly gravitating toward young, budding talent, the presence of these rookies often calls for appointment television.
But one of Torres’ teammates in the Bronx is reminding voters that Torres and Ohtani shouldn’t necessarily be considered shoo-ins for the award. There’s another worthy candidate flying under the radar.
Yankees’ third baseman Miguel Andujar is looking more and more like a keeper, and although he hasn’t stolen the spotlight away from Torres, his numbers at the plate have been exceptional.
In 46 games this year (180 at-bats), the 23-year-old leads the Yankees in batting average (.294) and doubles (18), and Andujar’s 26 total extra-base hits leads all major league rookies. But that’s not all. In his 51 career games (five games carried over from 2017), Andujar has hit 20 doubles, and the only Yankee to reach that mark quicker was Hall-of-Famer Joe DiMaggio (46 games), back in 1936.
In the Yankees’ 8-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday at Camden Yards, Andujar continued his hot streak. During the second inning, he hit a line drive home run — his sixth of the year– to the left field seats, and during the eighth, he added a run-scoring double down the left field line.
While third baseman Brandon Drury has been hitting well with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre over the last few weeks, all signs indicate that Andujar isn’t at risk for a reduced role — especially since he’s exceeded expectations as the Yankees’ eighth hitter.
“[Andujar] just continues to give us quality at-bats and some thunder at the bottom [of the lineup],’’ Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone told the New York Post. “Obviously, he had that stretch when he had so many extra-base hits [earlier in the year]. He hit that low-patch there and I thought his at-bats were still competitive.
“The experience he’s gained has been really good. The compete has been really good. The last week, 10 days, he’s been swinging a lot better.”
And like any hitter who’s getting on base at a high rate, Andujar offers a simple reason for his performance.
“I try to do my job and help the team. When I go to home plate, I go with my plan and try to hit the ball hard,” Andujar told the YES Network. “I don’t think about that it’s a base hit. I feel very excited to be here, to be a part of this team and help my team to win. I feel excited for that.
“At the end of the day [Boone] is the one giving me a chance to play. He believes in me, he believes in my talent. Just trying to go out there and help the team.”
The Yankees haven’t placed blind faith in Andujar. He’s suppressed the competition that was once at third base, and if he maintains this hitting pace, Andujar would rightfully belong on the Rookie of the Year ballot.