MINNEAPOLIS – On a team searching for offense and power, the Yankees have found both lately in an unexpected place.
Miguel Andujar homered for the fourth time in seven games in the Yankees’ win over the Twins Tuesday night.
After looking like he didn’t have a role on the team – since he isn’t comfortable at first base, Gio Urshela is entrenched at third and the outfield is full – Andujar has taken advantage of injuries to prove he can still swing the bat.
In other seasons, the recent stretch might have made Andujar possible trade bait, since runs typically aren’t hard to come by in The Bronx and he may have been considered a spare part.
But with the well-chronicled issues the Yankees have had scoring runs throughout 2021, Andujar’s resurgence has been a welcome – and needed – sight.
Aaron Boone praised Andujar Tuesday night, saying he valued his production “especially down towards the bottom” of the lineup.
“He had a few good at-bats,” said Boone, who also noted Andujar worked his first walk of the season in his 88th plate appearance of the year.
The at-bats included a ninth-inning blast to help put the game away. It was measured at an estimated 449 feet, the longest home run of Andujar’s career.
And it’s a career that’s been difficult to define.
Andujar made his MLB debut in 2017 with two brief stints with the Yankees. He burst on the scene a year later, taking over for Brandon Drury at third base.
He went on to hit 27 homers in 2018; only Giancarlo Stanton hit more for the Yankees. His .855 OPS and 130 OPS+ were both good for second on the team, trailing just Aaron Judge.
A second-place finish for AL Rookie of the Year followed, with Shohei Ohtani of the Angels getting the award.
Since then, Andujar’s struggles have been many.
He injured his shoulder just three games into the 2019 season, came back in May and was ineffective. He ended up getting season-ending surgery that month. That allowed Urshela to take over and never look back.
The Yankees then tried to make Andujar something of a utility player, where he’d be able to fill in at third, first base and left field, but that transition went poorly and Andujar was unable to play any of the three positions well enough. His hitting also suffered in the process.
But the Yankees, desperate for offense – and major league-level players – turned to Andujar again in 2021, with Stanton still nursing a quad injury, Aaron Hicks out for the year, Clint Frazier still not producing consistently and Brett Gardner and Judge unable to play in the field every day.
Andujar remains a subpar outfielder – although Fangraphs rates him as average in left this season – and he cost the team with a misplay against the Red Sox over the weekend, but he’s also displayed a strong arm.
At this point, though, the Yankees need his bat.
He still strikes out too much and is among the Yankees that has seen his ground-ball rate leap this season, another troubling indicator for the offense. But if he continues to slug like he has of late, the Yankees will find ways to keep him in the lineup.
His long-term future in The Bronx is still unsettled. As one scout said, “I’m not sure where he fits there. He’s not an outfielder and they have a third baseman and DH.”
For now, though, with the Yankees trying to turn around their season and Boone saying he mixed up Tuesday’s lineup to try to “unlock” the offense, Andujar showed he might have the key.