When you look at one of the hallmarks of Gene Michael’s tenure with the Yankees, it was essentially doing the opposite of what George Steinbrenner wanted. Instead of trading away valuable, young players and depleting the farm for aging veterans, Stick made sure to keep all the kids.
The Bill Pennington book Chumps to Champs detailed the fact that Bernie Williams was in the middle of every Yankee trade scenario. In the end, Stick kept a lot of those guys we grew up watching. It was the trades he didn’t make that turned out to be the most significant.
The reason I bring this up is because Brian Cashman, a disciple of Michael who worked directly with him as an assistant GM in the 90s, has taken up this same stance. Just like Michael in the late 80s and early 90s, Cashman learned from George’s burning desire to trade young players for temporary fixes.
You hear the term “prospect hugging” a lot, but is that a bad thing? Prospect hugging gave us Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Domingo German, Dellin Betances and, to some degree, Gleyber Torres, even though he came via a trade in 2016.
Just like Bernie in the early 90s, Miguel Andujar has been at the center of every trade prediction. At this point, it’s as entrenched in Yankee baseball lore as the YES Network theme is before a game. Whether it was pre-2018 when the Pirates dangled Gerrit Cole to teams, the winter after the 2018 season, the trade deadline, or this winter, the term “Miguel Andujar” and “trade” are married at this point.
If the Yankees don’t trade Miggy, I think it’s fair to say we have to trust in the process. We know the kind of player Miggy can be and nobody understands that more than Brian Cashman. Unless they can get back an explosive piece for him, there’s the potential that the Yankees will lose a solid player.
If Miggy makes his way on to the roster in 2020 and shows the same kind of flash we saw in 2018, the Yankees are getting a unique weapon on offense. He isn’t your prototypical masher that we’re seeing more and more around the league. There were things that Miggy did two years ago that really made you marvel at how special a player he was. I’m not even talking about how he tore through whatever rookie records DiMaggio and Mantle had either.
His ability to dig a pitch out of the dirt and knock it into the field for a hit was uncanny. You can’t just create someone who can wreak havoc in the batter’s box on a whim no matter where a ball is thrown.
Miggy’s batting average below the strike zone, when he was able to make contact down there, can only be described as insane. He hit above .400 on the right side of the plate and over .300 on the left.
While his Expected Batting Average on contact below the strike zone was lower than the results, it was still pretty extraordinary.
In all, Miggy accumulated 24 singles and 2 doubles under the zone. He was even able to knock two out of the park. In comparison to that very magical 2017 for Aaron Judge, Judge hit 11 singles under the zone, 0 doubles, and 2 home runs.
In comparison to our lord and savior DJ LeMahieu
DJ LeMahieu was the gift that kept on giving in 2019. The Yankees nearly made it to Game 7 of the ALCS after being down 3 – 1 in large part to DJ’s glove and his bat. You always wanted him up at the plate in pressure situations the way you always wanted Miguel Andujar on with RISP a year prior.
Sure, you can’t say Miggy and DJ’s defense are in the same universe because that is just a ridiculous statement, but what they brought to the lineup each night was not so different. While the peripheries on Baseball Savant don’t agree with this sentiment, there were other measurements in which DJ and Miggy were similar.
But first the Statcast stuff that is mandatory for articles evaluating players. Let me start with Miggy in 2018:
Now DJ in 2019:
DJ was a Statcast darling in 2019, while Miguel Andujar seemed to over perform. Still, over perform or not, baseball is a game. In games, results matter, and over the course of 2018, Miggy was essentially the Dominican baby brother on offense that DJ never had.
Miggy’s 2018 and DJ’s 2019
Both hit for a high average (Miggy 2018: .297 / DJ 2019: .327), had an above average OPS (Miggy: .855 / DJ: .893) and had an almost identical wRC+ (Miggy: 130 wRC+ / DJ 136 wRC+) by the time the season ended. While both didn’t strike out all that much compared to their counterparts in the lineup (Miggy: 16% K% / DJ: 13.7% K%) they seemed to have a similar weakness in being allergic to taking a walk (Miggy: 4.1% BB% / DJ: 7% BB%).
Oh they’ll have good at-bats (Miggy: 3.52 Pitches Per Plate Appearance / DJ: 3.76 PPA) despite the low walk-rate. If they’re getting to first, they’re earning it with their bat (M: 81.9% Contact % / DJ: 85.5% Contact %). In each of these instances, DJ is better than Miggy. Thing is, a player slightly worse than DJ is still a great weapon to have in the lineup.
If the Yankees keep Andujar, they’re hoping for a repeat of 2018. He did it once before so maybe he’ll end up doing it again. If you want a ring, then him at his best in that lineup definitely helps make that happen.