A year ago at this time, Miguel Andujar was the clear-cut favorite to open the season at third base for the Yankees. Had it not been for an out-of-this-world two-way showing from the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani in 2018, Andujar would have entered the season fresh off AL Rookie of the Year honors. Andujar fell short to Ohtani, though, and then endured a year to forget in the second season of his career.
Shoulder problems limited Andujar to just 12 games in 2019, but the Yankees had no trouble carrying on without him, evidenced by their 103-59 record and their first AL East title since 2012. One reason the Yankees finally regained control of the division? Gio Urshela, who grabbed the reins at third base as a result of Andujar’s health woes and became one of the injury-riddled Yankees’ most valuable players. It was a shocking rise for Urshela, who had never been known for his offense in prior major league stints with the Indians (2015, 2017) and Blue Jays (2018).
Before last year, Urshela had not hit more than 15 home runs in a professional season, yet he managed to mash 21 in the majors in 2019. That career-high HR total helped Urshela to an outstanding .314/.355/.534 line with 3.1 fWAR and a personal-best hard-hit rate in 476 plate appearances.
Urshela’s track record of success isn’t long, but the World Series hopeful Yankees are believers. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known that Urshela’s the front-runner to open the upcoming campaign at the hot corner for New York. So, despite his impressive performance as a rookie, Andujar’s behind on the Yankees’ depth chart. They’re even giving the soon-to-be 25-year-old work at first base and in the outfield early this spring in an effort to keep his bat in the lineup, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
Andujar may be hard-pressed to struggle more at first or in the outfield than he has at third, where he accounted for minus-25 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-16 Ultimate Zone Rating in his first season. But make no mistake, Andujar can hit. In his first season in the majors, he piled up 606 trips to the plate and batted .297/.328/.527 with 76 extra-base hits (47 doubles, 27 homers, two triples).
Considering his offensive upside, Andujar may well return to his past role as the Yankees’ primary third baseman sometime this year. Urshela, 28, will have to relinquish the job first, though. Which of the two do you think will log more time at the hot corner for the Yankees in 2020?
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