New positions give Miguel Andújar a challenge in spring training

Embed from Getty Images

Miguel Andújar isn’t Wally Pipp 2.0, but he has apparently lost his hold on the hot corner. And while Gio Urshela isn’t Lou Gehrig 2.0, Urshela deserves the inside track on the job after a terrific 2019. That leaves Andújar in a tough position come spring training. Not only will he have to fight for a roster spot, but he also needs show that his surgically repaired shoulder is back to full strength.

Assuming Andújar’s shoulder is fine and his bat reminiscent of his rookie year, the Yankees will find a lineup spot for him. However, since it’s hard to imagine Urshela losing the starting job barring injury, Aaron Boone has informed Miggy that he’ll work at first base and left field in camp. The only question is: well can he handle either of those spots?

Why not?

This isn’t the first time Andújar’s name has come up for a position change. There were concerns about his ability to play third base during his prospect days. In 2018, we saw those worries come to fruition. By all accounts, Miggy was quite poor defensively. Eye test or defensive metrics, it was no matter. Hence the talk of moving him off third base.

Now that talks of a position change are a reality, let’s discuss the Andújar’s outlook at first base and left field.

First Base

First base is often the first spot people bring up for any player needing to move off a position for defensive reasons. That doesn’t mean it’s easier, however.

Outs Above Average – Ending Position (Baseball Savant)

The graphic above depicts how Andújar handles batted balls in various directions. He mostly struggles to the backhand but is actually OK to the glove side. I suppose we can assume that those same tendencies will translate over to first base — poor range won’t dissipate simply because of a position change.

That said, perhaps DJ LeMahieu’s defensive prowess will be a saving grace for Andújar’s range. Keep in mind that there’s no second line of defense for a third baseman to the right. Instead, the grounders Miggy couldn’t get to toward the third base line resulted extra base hits. Going forward at first, they’ll either be singles or gobbled up by LeMahieu. LeMahieu isn’t the only benefit for Andújar, either. The hot corner gets a lot more action than first base, so fewer opportunities at first would hide Miggy to an extent.

One thing we can’t glean from Statcast are how Miggy will handle new responsibilities at first base. Brian Cashman has lauded his makeup, so it stands to reason that Andújar is willing and able to learn his new role. Still, there’s a lot to learn and evaluate in the time period spring training permits. A few new things come to mind:

  • Handling errant throws: from scooping to footwork around the bag
  • Different cutoff man responsibilities
  • Holding runners
  • Decision-making: attempt to field or cover base on grounders in 1B/2B hole

That’s a lot to get up to speed with, but it’s not an outlandish ask. That Andújar already has a feel for the infield, even if he’s not good at third base, will help him get started.

If the 24 year-old takes to first base well, he’ll still need to fend off Luke Voit and Mike Ford for playing time. They aren’t the best defenders themselves, so it may be more about who’s hot at the plate than any of their work in the field. Plus, there’s also the designated hitter spot that could allow Miggy and Voit/Ford to be in the lineup at the same time.

Left Field

Here’s where we’re completely in the dark. I mean, we know Andújar is a good athlete and has a strong arm. Whether or not that translates to left field is a mystery. Seeing Miggy play out there will be one of the big things to watch come spring training.

On the bright side, being good runner (77th percentile sprint speed per Statcast) and having a strong arm are a good starter kit for a move to left field. But things like instincts, first step, and decision-making can’t be evaluated until we see Andújar do it.

To be frank, I’m not so sure we see Andújar in the outfield during the regular season anytime soon. Spring Training, sure. But between Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, and Mike Tauchman, the Yankees are pretty much set in the outfield. Aaron Hicks will be back eventually, too. Andújar in the outfield seems like a scenario that requires a lot of work in spring training and bunch of minor league reps in Triple-A before any major league exposure.


Struggling at one position isn’t necessarily a harbinger of things to come elsewhere in the field. It’s not the best starting point, but that doesn’t mean trying something new isn’t worth the shot. Maybe, for whatever reason, Andújar will adapt to first base with ease. Perhaps his athleticism and arm strength will make him passable out in left field. And if neither work, there’s always DH. As long as his shoulder is strong and his offense returns to 2018-levels, the Yankees are going to find a place for him.

Previous

Tinkering With the Lineup

Next

Offseason Review: Tampa Bay Rays

10 Comments

  1. RetroRob

    Don’t see the Yankees trading Andjuar at the moment. His value is still depressed. It will increase once he gets out, starts playing, and shows he’s healthy and not impacted by the surgery. Playing other positions will also help his value.

    Do you know what else will increase his value? The NL adopting the DH in 2021 or 2022. He may not have to be a DH, but suddenly having 15 more teams looking for a bat will absolutely increase his value if the Yankees decide to trade him.

  2. Mungo

    As noted, hard to say how Andujar’s glove will translate to other positions. Alex Gordon was not a great defensive 3B’man, but then became a great defensive left fielder. Ryan Braun was quite bad at 3B, but was a decent left fielder. Gary Sheffield was bad in the infield, but was only marginally better in the outfield, but his bat carried the day. Mark Teixeira was a bit lumbering at third, but became gold glove caliber at first. Castellanos seemingly is bad everywhere, but it’s early going. Andujar is a good athlete. Decent speed. Strong arm. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he translated into a decent, if not plus defensive player elsewhere. Probably time to find out.

  3. Alan Baumohl

    Urshela had a breakout year, Voit’s first full year was up and down, and Miggy had a full year with the bat in 2018. Who will swing the bat in 2020? That is the real question. Then let’s not sleep on Mike Ford’s lefthanded power.

  4. RIPKobe

    What’s the case for Miggy playing 2nd?

  5. chip56

    For RAB posters, some sad news…Rob (Exiled in Tampa) has passed away.

    • CTRob

      That is, indeed, very sad news. Rob was the first poster I remember talking to back in the early RAB days and we had many chats in the years since.

      Thanks for posting, chip.

      RIP Rob.

    • Alan Baumohl

      I miss RAB.

    • RetroRob

      Chip, thanks for the information.

      Sorry to hear. I knew he was having some health issues, but didn’t realize to what extent.

  6. chip56

    I feel like Andujar will follow the Nick Castellanos path of being a poor defensive 3b who will translate to a poor, but playable, defensive OF’er. I don’t know that LF in Yankee Stadium is a great fit for him (I would much rather have Stanton out there) but whatever. If Stanton plays LF then Andujar DH’s…no problem.

  7. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    As he should, Derek, but I don’t think 1B is an option. Not with Voit and Ford clogging things up after they’ve just been to the Golden Corral with Gary. Voit/Ford will be a platoon at 1B. Miguel will play some 3B to give Gio a day off but mostly DH and some LF. They need to keep Stanton from breaking so I expect Wade, Tauchman and Miguel will all get some time in LF. Put Miguel in the field a couple days a week and DH Stanton, Gary or Judge.

    But that’s irrelevant now. What we care about is the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Dad and I wept when we heard the news. We were never Lakers fans but always enjoyed watching Kobe and Shaq. For those who aren’t basketball fans it’d be like if Jeter died tomorrow. And one of his daughters died as well. So tragic and so young. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén