📌 Join the BPCrew Chapter in your city and meet up with more Yankees fans! 👉 CLICK HERE

Why Miguel Andújar got lucky in ’18 & his value for ’20

Miguel Andújar broke onto the scene in 2018 for the Yankees, slashing .297/.328/.527 in 149 games, along with 27 home runs, 47 doubles, 92 runs batted in, and 83 runs scored over 606 plate appearances. He posted a .361 wOBA and 130 wRC+, making him a top-25 qualified hitter in baseball, as well.

Andújar only had a 2.8 fWAR because of his historically horrendous defense, and that’s what people will always bring up when talking about Andújar and his future with the Yankees. In 1169 1/3 innings at third base, he recorded minus-25 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), -10.9 RngR (Range Runs), -16.0 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and a -24.5 UZR/150 (UZR prorated over 150 games).

According to Inside Edge Fielding—which can be found on FanGraphs)—he only made 94.6% of “routine” plays (90-100% chance of an out) and 69.0% of “likely” plays (60-90% chance of an out). His routine play conversion rate was 18th out of 19 qualifying third basemen, as only Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox was worse with a 93.8% “routine” play conversion rate, while his “likely” play conversion rate was 15th out of 19 qualifying third basemen.

What’s this mean? Andújar can’t field a baseball at a major-league level and he has zero range.

Pretty much it became apparent that he’s probably better suited for another position—like first base or the outfield—or in a DH role as a hitter-only, just because he still has a lot of offensive value… at least you’d think that.

For comparison, Gio Urshela made 96.0% of “routine” plays (still not that great, 12th out of 17 qualifiers) in 2019, but he made 85.7% of “likely” plays (sixth out of 17 qualifiers). The crazy thing about Urshela is that while his defensive metrics were not in his favor, Inside Edge Fielding (which is what’s used for these percentages) shows other things. It shows he made 42.1% of “unlikely” plays (10-40% chance of an out)—and that was the third-best rate among qualified third basemen in 2019, only behind Matt Chapman (staggering 73.7% “unlikely” play conversion rate) and Nolan Arenado (55.6%). Urshela was middle of the pack in converting “about even” plays (40-60% chance of an out), sporting a 56.3% conversion rate in 2019.

Andújar’s “about even” play conversion rate in 2018 was a mere 10.0%, while he had an “unlikely” play conversion rate of 6.7%. Again, it’s crazy that he played 1169 1/3 innings of major-league defense, or whatever you want to call what he was doing over there, in 2018.

Anyway, Andújar had a really bad 12-game sample size in 2019 that was plagued by a torn labrum in his shoulder. In 49 plate appearances, he hit .128/.143/.128 with a .121 wOBA and a -36 wRC+. That’s really, really bad. However, you have to take into account that he was playing injured for most of those games when he returned prematurely from the injury… before having to hang it up for the season and undergo surgery.

After looking at Andújar’s surface numbers and not really taking into account his abysmal performance at the plate in 2019 because of his shoulder injury, you’d have to believe he has a lot of value for the Yankees at least offensively, right? A 130 wRC+ is pretty good, right? Yeah, a 130 wRC+ is pretty good, but the Statcast numbers tell another story.

Andújar had an expected batting average (xBA) of .281 in 2018, 16 percentage points lower than his actual batting average of .297, while sporting an expected slugging percentage (xSLG) of .444, 83 percentage points lower than his actual slugging percentage of .527.

He was severely out-hitting his expected stats, meaning Andújar was getting pretty lucky at the plate. His expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) of .326 was 35 percentage points lower than his actual wOBA of .361. If he had hit his expected stats instead of his actual stats, he would have been more of a league-average hitter, as FanGraphs defines a wOBA of .320 as “average.”

Also, he swings at too many pitches out of the zone (36.0% chase rate) and doesn’t work any counts (33.8% first-pitch swing rate), which factors into the former. Sure, Andújar hit .351 (33-for-94) with an xBA of .343, wOBA of .423 and an xwOBA of .382, which is spectacular, when putting the ball in play on the first pitch in 2018, but all of his numbers plummet after the first pitch in a plate appearance for him.

In plate appearances that he didn’t walk in or get hit by a pitch (so balls in play or strikeouts), Andújar had a wOBA of .345 (total wOBA was .361) and an xwOBA of .308 (total xwOBA was .326). He also only walks 4.1% of the time and unless a player’s hit tool is off the charts (and Andújar does have a solid hit tool, but it’s not good enough for a guy that rarely walks) that doesn’t bode well. You generally want someone to get on base at a rate over 30-31% and his true talent suggests that’s not where he lies.

My point here is that it would be wise to not expect Andújar to replicate what he did in 2018 again in 2020, even if he’s 100% healthy. His expected stats tell you a bunch of what he did in 2018 was pure luck… not exactly a fluke, but to expect him to put up a 130 wRC+ again might be wishful thinking.

My question is the following: Is there really much value to a player that can’t play a lick of defense, is out-hitting his expected stats by a large amount, has a true talent offensive value that’s around league-average, and walks at a minuscule rate? I’d say he has way less value than most Yankees’ fans think.

The emergence of Gio Urshela at third base for the Yankees in 2019 makes things even more interesting. Urshela’s Statcast numbers tell you that his expected stats somewhat mirror his actual stats (.314 BA/.294 xBA, .534 SLG/.505 xSLG, .369 wOBA/.353 xwOBA), meaning his production is sustainable.

Also, Urshela actually plays major-league level defense—though the analytics jury is still out on how good he actually is, so I’ll wait until the Sports Information Solutions’ DRS update comes out (which will account for how shifting has hurt some players or helped some players, since those kind of adjustments are on the team and not the player) and Infield OAA (Outs Above Average) from Statcast is made available, but Urshela gets the job done.

Urshela seems to have third base locked down going into 2020, so where’s that leave Andújar?

Obviously, there are a number of things you could do with him. You could have him be a DH at the MLB level, you could have him be a bat off the bench—but he only brings offensive value, so that’s kind of pointless to an extent—or you could stash him in the minors and further develop him offensively and defensively.

Some might say move him to another position or trade him. Moving someone with not much feel defensively like Andújar probably puts him in the minors for an extended period of time. Andújar himself doesn’t really have remotely any trade value, either, because all he brings to the table is a bat—and he got pretty lucky during his rookie seasons and teams can see that—and at 24 years old, he’s looking like a future DH in the league.

He, like Clint Frazier—who is just a bat with below-league average defense—are probably viewed more as supplementary pieces in a potential trade and not package leaders.

So, what would I personally do with Andújar? First off, I’d love to keep him in the organization. He’s still a somewhat talented bat, has a solid amount of team control left, and he doesn’t turn 25 until March.

I’d see how he bounces back in spring training and if he’s mashing the ball, maybe have him be a DH since you can have 26 players on an active roster starting in 2020. I still don’t really anticipate him being in the 2020 Opening Day lineup unless he either goes absolutely bonkers during spring ball or injuries —which were the story of the 2019 Yankees—allow him to be inserted into the lineup.

However, if including Andújar in a trade can net a solid return for a starting pitcher or something else, I wouldn’t hesitate to move him. I wouldn’t be actively shopping him, but I’d for sure be listening on offers that include the third baseman.