Is it Miguel Andujar who is poised to be this year’s Yankee rookie breakout candidate? Do not under any circumstances take this statement as any sort of indictment on the undeniable talent that is Gleyber Torres on a baseball diamond. The question stems more from what type of Gleyber Torres can the Yankees truly expect coming off the dreaded Tommy John surgery. A procedure usually reserved for pitchers, there are only a handful of position players who have undergone the surgery. (Most notable recent TJ surgery position player recipients include Miguel Sano, Matt Wieters and Christian Vazquez)
Sano suffered his injury in March a full 3 months earlier than Torres did. This allowed him additional time to heal as he came back strong in 2015. It is hard to know the truth behind a small market team like the Twins‘ decision to start Sano in the minors in 2015. Some reports say it was to ease Sano back into full baseball speed coming off his injury. Some reports say it was to keep their valuable control years. While I am not dialed in to Twins management it is evident to me it was a solid plan as Sano’s combined numbers between Double-A and the majors the year after his surgery was a strong 101 R, 33 HR, 100 RBI with a solid .917 OPS. Did the low pressure of Double-A help him find his rhythm?
As the crown jewel of the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Cubs, every Yankee fan wants Torres to succeed. In this case though itis Andujar who may be a better bet to stick with the big club out of spring training. If the Yankees hold back Torres to let him get his footing and build up his confidence just for a few weeks, they will get an extra year of control (similar to what the Cubs did with Kris Bryant in 2015).
Andujar was excellent throughout the 2017 season with combined totals of a respectable 73 R, 17 HR, 90 RBI (including a sizzling 4-for-7 stint in the majors). He shows powers to all parts of the field and has already hit a walk off homer and had a two home run game on March 1st this Spring. Considered a defensive liability at times in previous seasons, reports out of Yankee camp are that Andujar has taken great strides towards becoming a better defender. Comparing him to Torres so far this spring, Andujar has excelled, leading all Yankee hitters with 4 homers (tied with Billy McKinney) and a .400 BA , while Torres has struggled 3-20, .150 going into Saturday).
The main key may be the Yankees’ acquisition of the versatile 25-year-old Brandon Drury. Like Starlin Castro before him, the Yankees have acquired another seasoned player who still has room to grow while adequately playing multiple positions. Drury gives the Yankees the luxury of watching both their young prospects this spring. If either struggles deeply, he can easily slot in as an everyday third or second basemen. This will relieve some of the pressure of the Yankees having to rely on two rookies in the everyday starting lineup to begin the season.
This is an exciting time in the Yankeeverse as Cashman has a plan in place to surround the homegrown talent with affordable star power. (Core Four anyone????) But for those plans to continue to come to fruition, things like controllable years are an actual concern for all teams, even the almighty Yankees. So keep an eye out as Andujar is the one who is poised to benefit and will be given opportunities to be this year’s first Yankee rookie breakout star.
Article featured image of Miguel Andujar – courtesy of nj.com – Butch Dill/AP