When the Yankees traded for Brandon Drury, short-term and long-term questions immediately arose.
The future of Yankees' prospect Miguel Andujar, who was expected to be the favorite to break camp at third base before the trade, became a concern for those excited about the soon-to-be 23-year-old's offensive potential. The Yankees claim that Andujar is still considered the future at the hot corner, but they believe he would benefit from honing his defensive proficiency while in the minor leagues rather the majors.
Barring injury or dreadful production, Drury is set to fill the void left from Chase Headley's and Todd Frazier's departures. What can we expect from the 25-year-old Drury?
Drury has grabbed just under 1,000 plate appearances in the last two seasons with the Diamondbacks, hitting .275 with a .323 on-base percentage, and a .453 slugging percentage (95 OPS+) in the span. He ripped 68 doubles, three triples, and 29 home runs during the time period.
When Drury gets hits, they tend to go for extra bases (40 percent of his career hits have gone for at least a double), which bodes well for a batter that will hit toward the bottom of the Yankees' potent lineup.
Drury is not the most patient hitter - he owns a career 5.9 percent walk rate - while his strikeout rate (20.3 percent) hovers around the MLB average over his two-plus seasons (21.1 percent). It is not a certainty, but there is a chance that the right-handed hitting Drury benefits from being around some Yankees hitters that tend to see a lot of pitches, and draw walks in the process.
In the field, he has played most of his major league games at second base, however, he played 81.7 percent of his minor league games at third base. In 300-plus innings at third base in his time with the Diamondbacks (small sample size alert), Drury turned in a -4 defensive runs saved mark.
So, the Yankees must believe there is something better coming at third base from Drury when the major concern with Andujar is his glove work.
The Yankees have been high on Drury for some time, and gave up two promising mid-level prospects for his services. This signals the team believes that Drury has the capacity to improve on his solid stat line at the plate with at least average defense. He is just now approaching his prime seasons, thereby, if we add hitting in the Yankees' lineup and in the American League East to the equation, there could be a significant increase in his offensive production.
Some have compared Drury's trade with that of Didi Gregorius, who came to the Yankees via Arizona in the offseason leading up to the 2015 season. The parallel with Gregorius may be more about the trading partner as the Yankees shortstop had enjoyed significantly less time on the field as well as success than Drury before the trade. That said, the Yankees would be extremely excited if Drury elevates his game as dramatically as Gregorius has the last couple seasons.
Expecting Drury to leap to another level is understandable, but there is also the chance that exhibits that he is exactly the player he was the last couple of seasons. Stable production might not be enough for fans to stop clamoring for Andujar, however, if Drury's performance stays constant with the last two seasons, it would still be sufficient in the Yankees' eyes provided the rest of the lineup is doing what is expected of them.
Finally, should Drury backpedal, all would not be lost with Andujar seemingly close to contributing on an everyday basis. Drury's versatility - he has also played both corner outfield spots in the big leagues - would continue to provide the Yankees with value whether he loses a starting role for lack of production, or simply because Andujar pushes the envelope.
Drury's addition to the roster has made it easier for the Yankees to handle Andujar's progression in the manner and speed they deem appropriate. At the same time, the team believes they have found a young experienced player within reach of high ceiling production.