GWINNETT, GA — Miguel Andujar’s 2017 is one to remember.
That’s lofty praise, considering some of the pieces on the Yankees’ farm. And judging by his rise the past year, it’s certainly imaginable.
Andujar’s rise in the public persona really began out in the desert this past October. There he earned Rising Stars honors in the Arizona Fall League, slashing .284/.364/.373 striking out 11 times and walking nine. Suddenly he was on the prospect map, not simply a Yankees’ top prospect.
That’s who Andujar is. He has constantly shown improvement since being signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2011. I personally have written quite a bit on Andujar’s climb, so I wanted to focus on some takeaways after watching him in person this past Wednesday in Gwinnett. That said, if you are interested in Andujar’s fast rise, you can read about it here.
The first thing you notice about Andujar is his swing. It’s violent. It reminds me somewhat of Gary Sheffield’s swing in that there is a lot of movement pre-pitch, and when he gets the barrel on the ball, you just know it’s hit hard.
He stands relatively wide at the plate, with a slight bend in the knees. The back elbow is up, and the bat is in a bit of a twirl, slightly curled head high. He’s bouncy on his feet, and with a toe tap and slide step into the ball, he unleashes a quick, and powerful swing.
(all videos courtesy of Wayne Cavadi’s Minor League Videos YouTube page)
Andujar is super aggressive at the plate. He won’t shy away from a pitch he likes, that’s for sure. He swung — and fouled off — the first two pitches of his night, the second landing in G-Braves first baseman Carlos Franco’s glove. He saw three pitches in his next at bat, swinging at two, before coming out and swinging at the first two pitches of his third at bat.
You would think someone which that kind of aggressive swing tendency is a reckless hitter, but it’s quite the opposite. He constantly makes hard contact, even if it’s foul. Though he will rarely take a walk (just five percent of the time) he controls the strike zone and avoids the strikeout. Andujar has struck out just 61 times in 432 plate appearances. Not shabby for a 22-year-old getting his first taste of Triple-A.
His power is almost all pull. Though the right-hander can sprinkle in some doubles to the opposite field, his over-the-fence power goes to left field. Surprisingly, he has hit a career-high 14 home runs despite seeing a raise in his ground ball rate and minor decline in his fly ball rate. It explains an outlandish 19 percent of his fly balls leaving the park.
Thought I didn’t have much of a sample size in person, as the Braves threw a bevy of right handers, Andujar doesn’t struggle against any pitching. He posted an .803 OPS against lefties in Trenton and an .848 OPS against righties. Though the numbers are wider apart since joining the RailRiders (1.102 OPS against lefties and .781 against righties) he is still slashing a respectable .294/.330/.451 with three of his seven Triple-A home runs against right-handers.
Defensively Andujar is superb and only getting better. He showed fantastic athleticism, fully extending to the shortstop side, fielding the ground ball, getting up and firing to first base for an out very fluidly. Despite not being a speedster of any sorts, he has range and instincts and and a strong enough arm for the hot corner. The issues seems to be in consistently delivering the kind of plays I saw Wednesday night.
Andujar had a very brief taste of the big leagues, and the acquisition of Todd Frazier seems to suggest it will stay that way for now. But he teased Yankees fans with his abilities, going 3-for-4 and drawing a walk. You can be sure a strong 2018 spring training will put Andujar in the hunt for a big league role next year.