Yankees: No, Miguel Andújar does not need to be in the lineup every day

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 2: Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium on June 2, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 2: Miguel Andujar #41 of the New York Yankees looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium on June 2, 2021 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

Too often we’re sucked into a player’s offensive production, especially in regard to recent performance. Baseball is a “what have you done for me lately?” sport, as evidenced by the trade deadline every single year.

Right now, this is the case among New York Yankees fans when it comes to Miguel Andújar, whose bat has been heating up over the last couple of weeks. He’s finally getting regular playing time and we’re seeing the results.

However, he’s still not entirely a serviceable defensive player, and that’s putting it nicely. We’ve seen his deficiencies in left field, which were on fully display last Saturday against the Boston Red Sox. Statcast put a 95% catch probability on a ball hit toward the warning track that Andújar failed to get leather on. It dropped in for a double and two runs scored.

On the season, Andújar has been good for -2 Defensive Runs Saved in just 160 innings in left field. That’s about 18 full games’ worth, and that averages out to -18 DRS over a full season. That’s obviously a pessimistic projection because that would mean Andújar wouldn’t improve despite regular action in the field, so let’s safely assume he’s good for -10 DRS. That’s fair, right?

Let’s even go back to his first full season in 2018 when he was the Rookie of the Year runner up. He played that entire campaign at third base, his natural position. Now, he’s playing the outfield, somewhere he’s had no professional experience up until 2020. He’s played the hot corner from 2012 until the middle of 2020.

Anyway, in 2018, Andújar was good for a 4.9 oWAR. Absolutely tremendous. He was an extra-base hit machine and helped keep the Yankees’ lineup humming. However, at third base, he was good for -21 DRS and a -1.8 dWAR. Really not good at all. In fact, that’s detrimental. And that becomes all the more harmful when you’re playing games down the stretch and in October.

The Yankees should still have concerns about playing Miguel Andújar everyday.

Putting an improving bat in the lineup and sacrificing defense to a somewhat concerning extent is not the answer … especially for the Yankees, who are already doing that at a number of positions. Andújar certainly deserves more playing time, but an everyday fixture in left field? Definitely not. The Yankees need to make moves before the trade deadline to address their outfield. This isn’t sustainable.

Also, what does this mean? You’re benching Clint Frazier … forever? Either that, or you’re giving Giancarlo Stanton more days off to make room at the designated hitter spot. Or you’re banking on Aaron Judge to have fairly frequent days off moving forward. Because who is going to play center field? The answer is Brett Gardner. Nobody else can really handle it. And there can’t be a bad defender at that position.

Andújar’s renaissance has been among the more encouraging aspects during the Yankees’ current 5-10 stretch. It’s been ugly, but he’s remained somewhat of a constant offensively. But he’s still been good for a 0.0 WAR with this bat. It’s unfortunate when you’re nitpicking stats, but very few of Andújar’s homers, extra-base hits, and RBI have been in meaningful moments.

He’s hitting .059 with a .114 OPS with runners in scoring position. Those numbers hardly increase to .178 and .348 in high-leverage situations. Yes, he has five home runs in his last eight games, which is comforting to see since it’s difficult to hit major league pitching, but four those have come when the Yankees were leading 7-3 and 7-1 and losing 9-1 and 3-0. All of them came in the seventh inning or later when the game was all but officially out of reach for either team.

Also, Andújar rarely walks. His batting average is nearly identical to his on-base percentage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially since the Yankees are lacking the in BA department severely, but all that proves is Andújar is manufacturing his appearance on the bases when it hardly matters.

Don’t get us wrong, the 26-year-old showing flashes of his All-Star-caliber rookie self is generating plenty of excitement among the fan base, but to call him an everyday player is a bit of a stretch. He probably wouldn’t be a fourth outfielder on most teams. This is just the circumstance he’s dealing with because of Gio Urshela’s emergence.