The acquisition of Brandon Drury last week may have decreased the chances that Miguel Andujar opens the season as the Yankees' third baseman, but Andujar is doing the best he can to stake his claim.
On Monday, he ripped a game-tying RBI double in the seventh and a walk-off homer in the ninth against the Phillies. The following day, he homered again against the Blue Jays. As if that wasn't enough, Andujar then went deep in both of his first two trips to the plate against Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him four long balls in 14 at-bats this spring.
Yes, it's only the early days of the Grapefruit League schedule. But even beyond those results, there is reason to believe Andujar -- who turns 23 on Friday -- has some serious thunder in his bat. His scouting report says it, his numbers show it, and even in a tiny sample, Statcast™ proves it.
Andujar ranks as the game's No. 65 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, as well as its No. 3-ranked third baseman. The MLB Pipeline report credits the Dominican Republic native for his pitch recognition, quick bat and strong wrists, which lead to him, "repeatedly barreling balls and producing rockets to all fields."
The stats show that Andujar walks infrequently, but also strikes out infrequently, posting the 16th-lowest K rate in the Triple-A International League in 2017 (minimum 200 plate appearances). Meanwhile, he raked last season both at Double-A Trenton (.312/.342/.494) and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.317/.364/.502), with 36 combined doubles in addition to 16 home runs. In a five-game cameo with the Yankees that included just one start, he went 4-for-7 with a pair of two-baggers.
The numbers are one thing, but Statcast™ helps to highlight the skills the scouts see. Anyone can luck into a few hits or a few good games. On the other hand, tools are either there, or they aren't. If a pitcher shows he can throw a 100-mph fastball or a runner shows that he possesses game-changing speed, that's notable.
The same could be said of elite exit velocity. And last June 28, in his only big league start thus far, Andujar confirmed that he has it.
In the third inning at Guaranteed Rate Field, White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon whipped a 94-mph fastball over the plate, and Andujar camly pulled a line drive to left field for a single. The ball sizzled off his bat at 112.1 mph, according to Statcast™, with a 12-degree launch angle.
That is top-tier contact. Major League batters combined to hit a line drive or fly ball at 112 mph or harder only 333 times all of last season, and those rockets produced a .922 batting average and 237 extra-base hits.
Let's put Andujar's feat in further perspective. There were 614 non-pitchers who recorded at least five at-bats last season, and Andujar was one of just 90 (14.7 percent) to record even one line drive or fly ball with an exit velocity of 112 mph or higher (Madison Bumgarner also did it as a pitcher).
Only 52 of those position players (8.5 percent) did it multiple times, and the six who reached double digits -- Giancarlo Stanton (39), Aaron Judge (35), Nelson Cruz (22), Joey Gallo (14), Marcell Ozuna (11) and Manny Machado (10) -- are among the game's most prolific sluggers.
In other words, hitting the ball that well is rare. Pulling off the feat in so few opportunities should raise some eyebrows, especially for a 22-year-old in his MLB debut.
And it wasn't just that one batted ball. Andujar put seven balls in play for the Yankees in 2017, and four crossed Statcast™'s 95-mph threshold for hard contact. Two of the seven (28.6 percent) were barrels, which are batted balls with an ideal combination of exit velocity and launch angle. (The MLB-wide barrel rate last year was 6.2 percent, led by Judge at 25.4 percent).
Besides the 112.1 mph single, Andujar's other barrel came in the ninth inning of the same game, as he walloped an up-and-away fastball from righty Michael Ynoa at 104.1 mph and 20 degrees off the center-field wall for a two-run double. That made Andujar the first Yankee since 1984 to collect three hits in his MLB debut and the first ever to drive in four runs.
None of that guarantees Andujar is ready to be the Yankees' primary third baseman in 2018, or that he has a successful career ahead of him. But his demonstrated ability to make elite contact certainly bodes well for the potential in his bat.