San Diego might have been a surprise landing spot for Manny Machado, but the Yankees' decision to pass on the 26-year-old should not have been a shock. Yet, there are fans who will have a hard time letting go of the Yankees' choice.
The Yankees apparently believe they have their third baseman of the future in soon to be 24-year-old Miguel Andujar, who is coming off a second-place finish in the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year balloting. While the point will be made that Andujar will never be the fielder that Machado is at third base, the Yankees youngster doesn't have to be for fans to forget about the newest Padre.
By all accounts, Andujar is working as hard as he can to rectify the issues he has always displayed in the field. Andujar spent time in the offseason working with potential Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre on his defense. Andujar has also been seen taking extra grounders this spring, another indication that he is quite serious about improving.
At issue is the chance that Andujar won't become an above-average defender at third base like Machado, because the former was among the worst fielders in the game last season. The Yankees are investing in Andujar because they are in love with his work ethic and believe that he is athletic enough to continually improve at the position.
The Yankees are willing to allow Andujar's defensive abilities to evolve because of the immense damage he does with the baseball bat.
Andujar finished the 2018 season hitting .297 with a .328 on-base percentage and a .527 slugging percentage (126 OPS+) in 606 plate appearances. Andujar mashed 47 doubles (tying the MLB record for rookies) and 27 home runs. Andujar ripped a total of 76 extra-base hits, many of which came at opportune times for the Yankees.
Andujar's success at the plate should not have been unforeseen as he was consistently touted and performed as one of the better hitters in the Yankees' farm system. That said, the level of consistency that Andujar demonstrated - as a rookie no less - might have been unexpected. To have avoided significant downturns in offensive production displays an aspect about Andujar that cannot always be taught, and that's maintaining a level head in a difficult game to master.
Consider all the negativity Andujar must have endured - the "awful fielder" commentary that's infused with every "what an amazing bat" remark - which seemingly never fazed him or at least threw him off his game. Andujar continued to bust it defensively behind the scenes and completely answered the call when he stepped into the batter's box with games on the line.
There is little reason to believe Andujar will have trouble replicating his offensive prowess in 2019. Imagine the benefit to the Yankees if Andujar is able to put at least some of his fielding issues behind him and continue to develop as a hitter, one who is years from hitting his peak.
When it comes down to it, Miguel Andujar could expel thoughts of Manny Machado out of fans' minds by simply being Miguel Andujar -- a hard-working, team-driven player that doesn't allow outside noise to affect his overall production.
The Yankees are banking on it.