The Yankees knew Miguel Andujar had a great approach at the plate, enough to put him in their Major League plans in 2018. But even they didn't expect him to have the breakout season he produced.
If it wasn't for Japanese standout Shohei Otani's dual-threat performance for the Angels, Andujar would've won the Rookie of the Year after posting a .297/.328/.527 line with 27 homers and 92 RBI. However, the fielding aspect of Andujar's game wasn't entirely up to speed with his bat.
Andujar was rated the worst everyday third baseman in baseball last season, according to Fangraphs. He had -25 defensive runs saved, and totaled 15 errors (seven throwing, seven fielding) over 136 games at third. Outside of metrics, it was clear to the naked eye Andujar was struggling in the hot corner with a loopy arm motion and delayed reaction at times.
That is why there's an emphasis on improving Andujar's fielding prowess coming from the Yankees this offseason. Manager Aaron Boone said back when the Yankees were eliminated form the postseason by the Red Sox in the ALDS that Andujar needed to work on his fundamentals becasue the physical attributes are already there.
"I think the biggest thing comes down to his footwork," Boone told The Athletic's Lindsey Adler. "He has the athleticism, he has the hands, the arm strength. I think his pre-pitch and his footwork are gonna determine if he becomes that frontline defender at third base. And I do believe he can get there."
Andujar flew to Tampa back in November to meet with Boone and infield coach Carlos Mendoza to come up with the best offseason workout plan to improve that first step and agility in the field.
"We got together and gave him some drills," Mendoza said. "It was a lot of his pre-pitch ready position along with a lot of agility footwork so he can work on the coordination between his upper body and his lower half."
And while Andujar has been working on his craft, he is obviously aware that his name has been involved in some trade rumors. But, like most players, he isn't letting that affect his mindset in the offseason.
"I hear them but they're kind of white noise," his agent Francis Marquez translated for him. "It's something that's in the background, but I cannot focus on that. I can't control that, but I can control the work that I do."
At 23 years old, there is tremendous upside to Andujar, especially after his first full season. And that season caught the eyes of many veterans like Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre, who extended an invitation to help him with his defense this winter. Both from the Dominican Republic, Beltre lives 15 miles in Santo Domingo from Andujar's San Cristobal.
Beltre was also Andujar's role model growing up, and since they both play the same position, he wanted to play just like him.
"Once I became a professional third baseman, I gravitated toward him because we are built kind of the same," Andujar said.
So, as you'd expect, he said "of course" in Spanish when asked if he would accept Beltre invitation. Andujar will take any tips and drills to improve his glove.