Miguel Andujar's Huge Power Potential Can Make Him Instant Yankees, MLB Star

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 1, 2018

New York Yankees' Miguel Andujar watches after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a baseball spring exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Thursday, March 1, 2018, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Based on the early returns, Miguel Andujar is determined to do anything and everything to earn a spot on the 2018 New York Yankees. Up to and including hitting every pitch he sees over the fence.

This is only a slight exaggeration.

Already with two home runs in four games, Andujar needed only two pitches to swat his third and fourth homers of the exhibition season against the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. He ambushed Nick Pivetta in the second inning, and then did the same to Pedro Beato in the third.

Just like that, Andujar's home run total through five spring games is a quarter of the way to the 16 homers he slugged in 125 minor league games last season. 

By extension, he would seem to be on his way to finding himself at third base for the Yankees when they open their 2018 season at the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29. Although he still technically has to beat out the newly acquired Brandon Drury for the job, the Yankees aren't blind to what he's capable of.

"He's already opened our eyes—not with this camp, but what he's done and where he's at in his career," general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. "The competition is always good. We try to line up as much of that as we can because I think it brings out the best in people."

The usual caveats apply, of course.

It's only spring training, and a small slice of spring training at that. And Andujar hasn't been carving his way through the most dynamic array of arms. Neither Pivetta nor Beato is All-Star material. Ditto for his other two long ball victims: Ranger Suarez and Justin Shafer.

All the same, Andujar's knocks on the big league door are only getting louder with each dinger he hits. Likewise, each dinger he hits is a real-life illustration of his potential.

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Andujar, who turns 23 on Friday, was signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic way back in 2011. Although he was a capable professional in his first five professional seasons, he never loomed large enough to rank as one of Major League Baseball's elite prospects.

As evidenced by how he's now the league's No. 59 prospect for Baseball America and its No. 65 prospect for MLB.com, that's changed.

This has everything to do with how his bat went from being merely promising to being legitimately dangerous in the upper levels on the minors in 2017. Across 125 games at Double-A and Triple-A, he slashed .315/.352/.498 and hit a career-high 16 homers.

Granted, the phrase "career-high 16 homers" is fodder for a response along the lines of, "Is that it?" However, a prospect's power potential isn't always encapsulated in his minor league results.

You can look to Gary Sanchez as an example. He never hit more than 18 homers in any minor league season before he slammed 20 in only 53 games as a major league rookie in 2016. He then went on to hit 33 last season, and his power is clearly in fine form this spring.

Andujar has the goods to stay on a similar sort of trajectory. There's a good amount of strength contained within his 6'0", 215-pound frame, and his quick wrists help him generate plenty of bat speed. 

"He’s special from a bat speed standpoint," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, per Steve Popper of NorthJersey.com. "Knows where his barrel is."

As MLB.com's Andrew Simon highlighted, Andujar showed off what his bat is capable of during his cup of coffee in the majors last year. He hit one ball at an exit velocity of 112.1 mph. In so doing, he logged as many 112 mph batted balls in eight plate appearances as Paul Goldschmidt, Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant, Khris Davis, Edwin Encarnacion and many others had all season.

The biggest flaw in Andujar's hit tool is that he prefers taking his hacks to working counts. He's walked in only 6.1 percent of his minor league plate appearances.

But not unlike, say, Adrian Beltre, Andujar's free-swinging hitting style comes with a silver lining: He doesn't strike out much either. He's whiffed in only 13.1 percent of his plate appearances since 2016.

And while Andujar has only shown off home run power to the left of center field, his minor league spray chart indicates that he does have some opposite-field power in him:

Image courtesy of MLBFarm.com.

In the minors, that power has only been good for triples and doubles. Put him in front of Yankee Stadium's short right field porch, however, and it should become home run power.

Altogether, what Andujar is doing now is providing an enticing tease of power that's capable of producing 30-plus homers in the major leagues. Should he earn the Yankees' starting job at the hot corner, he would merely be the next in a long line of sluggers—namely: Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius—who are capable of climbing that high.

The hard part will be convincing the Yankees that he can handle himself when he's at the hot corner. He has more than enough arm for the job but has attracted criticism over his footwork and throwing accuracy.

Still, the Yankees clearly believe in him. If they didn't, they might have been more willing to send him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for ace right-hander Gerrit Cole during the winter. According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Andujar is one of the prospects who the Yankees put behind a line in the sand.

For his part, Andujar has his mind and effort in the right place.

"From a year ago, what I've been wanting to do is be more focused and repeat the good things that you do on the field," he said of his quest to improve his glovework, according to Hoch. "Be more consistent on that side of the game. I work hard with the coaches, go through the routines and the drills to help me be more consistent and keep repeating the good stuff."

All Andujar has to do now is keep working and, above all, keep swinging. If he can do that, the Bronx will soon have another Bomber.

Data courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphsBaseball Savant and MLBFarm.com.

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