TAMPA — As a rookie, back in 2018, Miguel Andújar looked like the Yankees' third baseman of the future.
With his patented helicopter-like swing, Andújar was a wrecking ball at the plate that year, slashing .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers and 47 doubles over 149 games.
If it wasn't for future MVP Shohei Ohtani, Andújar would have an American League Rookie of the Year Award on his mantle.
Since then, however, Andújar has been either injured, underperforming or on the outside looking in at playing time. He's appeared in just 78 games since his dynamic debut, hitting .228 (60-for-263) with seven homers and four doubles in that three-year span.
Part of that stretch featured a pandemic-shortened campaign and a sophomore season washed away completely from a season-ending shoulder injury. Nonetheless, this spring served as yet another opportunity for the now 27-year-old to show he's worthy of an opportunity.
Andújar's name didn't come up too many times at Yankees camp over the last month, but he quietly put together a solid performance. The utility man hit .304 with a homer across eight Grapefruit League games, making appearances at third base, first base and left field on defense.
Sure, that's a very small sample size, but manager Aaron Boone has been impressed with what he's seen from Andújar both on the field and in his work off of it.
"I feel like he's in great physical condition," Boone told reporters on Monday. "I think he clearly worked hard in the offseason to put his body in a good position. I feel like it's the best we've seen him swing the bat in a while, in a couple years. He's a better version right now of himself. It's been good to see the quality of at-bats that he's been having. I feel like his swing decisions have been good. I feel like he's hitting the ball hard."
Boone continued, praising Andújar for his improvements on the defensive side of the ball.
"I feel like he's done a really good job in left field," he said. "You know, I've always felt like he feels kind of natural to me out there in left field. Well I think he's starting to add experience to it and I feel like he's played a good left field this spring while keeping that flexibility of being able to play third, we played him at first the other day. Physically I feel like Miggy's in a better spot than has been the last couple years."
He may be in a better spot, but Andújar is still an outsider when it comes to this club's roster construction. Josh Donaldson is starting at third in a jam-packed infield, Anthony Rizzo will hold it down over at first and left field is locked up with Joey Gallo.
New York evidently doesn't need Andújar on the bench either, sending him down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (along with outfielder Tim Locastro) to start the 2022 season. Non-roster invitee Marwin Gonzalez, meanwhile, reportedly made New York's Opening Day roster.
So, what does all of that mean for Andújar? He could always be moved—either imminently or before the trade deadline—using a change of scenery to get more playing time. Or, he'll spend an extended period of time in Triple-A, biding his time for an injury to open the door for a shot in the Bronx.
Asked if Andújar can ever recapture the performance he put together in 2018 at the big-league level, Boone didn't hesitate, nodding in agreement.
"I'm excited to see where he's at right now physically, and yeah, he's still a young man," Boone said. "I wouldn't put anything past him after putting together a season like he did."
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