Yankees should turn Miguel Andujar into Alfonso Soriano
Miguel Andujar had a stellar rookie campaign in 2018. Unfortunately, a partially torn labrum robbed him of his sophomore season — and with the emergence of Gio Ursehla has clouded his Yankees future. That’s why the only logical next step is to teach Andujar a new position or two.
Out of sight, out of mind — perhaps in the eyes of some Yankees fans, following Gio Ursehla’s breakout 2019 season. However, how can anyone forget that Miguel Andujar was essentially robbed of the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2018 — to Shohei Ohtani, who only played in 104 games (10 as a pitcher)?
Andujar’s performance as a rookie was a huge reason why the Yanks were able to go 100-62 and make it to the ALDS. Andujar would break Joe DiMaggio’s rookie record of 44 doubles in a season, slugging 47. He would also become the second Yankee rookie ever to hit 20 homers (27) and 40-plus two-baggers. Oh, and the then 23-year-old drove in 92 runs with a .855 OPS in 149 games.
Now that’s enough history for one day. As general manager Brian Cashman recently admitted, his club is getting a lot of calls on Andujar, should the Bombers look to deal him this winter.
While it’s safe to say that Urshela earned the right to head into Spring Training as the starting third baseman, his defensive skill gives him a significant boon over Andujar; I don’t believe the Yanks should look to cut ties with Andujar’s electric stick just yet.
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Instead, I would do what the organization did with another young athletic star in the making back in 2001, when Alfonso Soriano was installed in left field to begin the season.
If you remember back (sorry, a little more history), Chuck Knoblauch forgot how to throw from second base to first base — which resulted in another move for Soriano — this time to second. When the season was over, and the Yanks lost in the World Series to the D’backs, but Soriano finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Coming up through the minor league system as a shortstop, Soriano was never going to take the position from Derek Jeter. However, the Yankees had the foresight to understand the type of big-league hitter Soriano could become and began working him out at different positions because of his quick feet and spectacular throwing arm.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Andujar is on a similar trajectory, as the Dominican-native is hard at work with Mariners first base/infield coach Perry Hill — improving his overall defense — and not just at third base.
According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, in gym sessions, Andujar is worked on improving his footwork and timing should a move to the outfield or even first base be in the cards in 2020. Adding versatility to his game is vital for Andujar, as he looks to make up for a lost season.
Brian Cashman already admitted there is a real possibility of Andujar moving around the diamond next season, telling Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:
"“Because of Urshela, it gives us some things to kick around,” Cashman said. “If Gio continues to hold that position, you’re going to want to see if you can find that way to get [Andújar’s] bat in that lineup. Can he play first? Can he play the outfield? You know, you start playing with those mind games.”"
While there is little doubt that Andujar will hit as he did in 2018, especially with a fully healed right labrum, his glovework and throwing accuracy have always been issues.
As for the comparison between Soriano and Andujar — Soriano stood 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, while Andujar comes in at 6-foot, 205 pounds — not much of a difference. And I already spoke about the quick feet, strong arm, and a plethora of power.
So why can’t lightning strike twice? Andujar plans to return to the Yankees minor league facility in Tampa, FLA, in six weeks. Why not have Soriano meet him there and act as a mentor?
If the young Yankee can amass the type of career Soriano did across 16 years: a seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger that hit 412 homers and 1159 RBI while turning into a capable defender at multiple positions, what’s the problem?