Putting Miguel Andujar’s breakout season into context

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The minor league regular season wrapped up Monday and boy, it was a successful season for the Yankees’ affiliates. The eight domestic affiliates went a combined 489-325 (.601), and seven of the eight qualified for the postseason. Two tied their franchise record in wins. It was a great season in the minor league standings and a great season for many individual prospects too.

One of those prospects, 22-year-old third baseman Miguel Andujar, had a breakout season in which he hit .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) with system leading 36 doubles and a career high 16 home runs in 125 games split almost evenly between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He struck out 71 times in 522 plate appearances, or 13.6% against the best pitching he’s ever faced. Heck, Andujar even went 3-for-4 with a double in his one-game MLB cameo in June.

Andujar is not new to the organization. The Yankees signed him as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic for $750,000 back in July 2011, and he’s gradually worked his way up the minor league ladder since. For the first few seasons of his career Andujar would have a slow first half and a great second half. The last two years he’s been able to put together strong seasons from start to finish, and he’s continued to get better:

  • 2015: .243/.288/.363 (98 wRC+) at High-A
  • 2016: .273/.332/.410 (111 wRC+) at High-A and Double-A
  • 2017: .315/.352/.498 (132 wRC+) at Double-A and Triple-A

Andujar’s breakout season landed him in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list recently — he slid in at No. 100 once Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers graduated to the big leagues — and I’m hopeful he’ll pop up on a few more top 100 lists next spring. I’ve been an Andujar fan for a while now. I figured he’d be one of those “how was this guy never on a top 100 list?” players, except now he’s on a top 100 list.

Anyway, I like Andujar because he has power and because he doesn’t swing and miss often. He doesn’t walk much either (5.6% this year), so he is a free swinger, but he gets the bat on the ball consistently and makes it work. It’s a low walk/low strikeout profile rather than the always scary low walk/high strikeout profile. Martin Prado and Pablo Sandoval are good examples of low walk/low strikeout players, at least when they were in their primes.

To help put Andujar’s skill set — lots of contact and above-average power — into context, I decided to plot 2017 minor league K% and ISO rates. I set the minimum at 400 plate appearances to exclude the short season leagues, weeded out the stat-skewing Mexican League players, and wound up with 707 players. Their strikeout and isolated power rates:

2017-milb-k-vs-iso

There aren’t many dots around Andujar at all. The combination of contact and power is unusual. In fact, only two minors leaguers had a lower strikeout rate and a higher ISO than Andujar this year. One was Rangers prospect Willie Calhoun. He went from the Dodgers to the Rangers in the Yu Darvish trade and posted an 11.4% strikeout rate and a .272 ISO while spending the entire season in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.

The other prospect? Yankees first baseman Mike Ford. Ford had a 13.5% strikeout rate and a .201 ISO. Maybe we should talk about Mike Ford more? Then again, he’s three years older than Andujar and played most of the season in Double-A, and like Calhoun, he’s a bat-only guy. Ford and Calhoun are essentially positionless. Andujar has a rocket arm and the tools to be a good defensive third baseman, even if the Yankees don’t consider him one yet.

(A third prospect, Dodgers outfielder Matt Beaty, put up a .179 ISO with an 11.2% strikeout rate this year, so he came close to the Andujar benchmark. Beaty is also two years older and spent the entire season in Double-A, so yeah.)

Going back through previous years, the number of prospects who did what Andujar did this year (13.6 K% and .182 ISO) at the same age (22) and at the same levels (Double-A and above) is quite small. The previous five seasons:

  • 2016: Willie Calhoun (11.6 K% and .215 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2015: Max Kepler (13.1 K% and .209 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2014: Mookie Betts (10.8 K% and .183 ISO at Double-A and Triple-A) and Giovanny Urshela (12.7 K% and .210 ISO at Double-A and Triple-A)
  • 2013: Maikel Franco (10.6 K% and .224 ISO at Double-A)
  • 2012: Oscar Taveras (10.5 K% and .252 ISO at Double-A)

That is quite a list of names. Kepler, Betts, and Franco are all big leaguers who have, at one time or another, looked like absolute stars. Taveras was baseball’s top prospect and next superstar when he was tragically killed in a car accident. Calhoun has not yet played in the big leagues but should soon — I’m guessing he’ll get a September call-up any day now — and Urshela basically stopped hitting after that big 2014 season. He’s the cautionary tale.

This isn’t to say Andujar is the next Mookie Betts or the next Giovanny Urshela or the next anyone. He’s not. He’s the next Miguel Andujar. It’s just meant to show how difficult it is to do what Andujar did this year, to hit for that much power while making that much contact at that age at those levels. One or two guys a year do it, and the guys who have done this sorta thing before were all considered among the game’s best up-and-comers at one point.

Andujar is, of course, a flawed prospect. Most are. He is still an impatient hitter, and when you swing so freely, you’re inevitably going to chase out of the zone and hit into some weak outs. Andujar also has to improve his defense. It’s more about breaking bad habits than refining skills or even a lack of skills. And there’s time to do that. Andujar is only 22 and he has two minor league option years, if necessary. His offense has really come together. Now he needs to do the same defensively.

At some point the Yankees will give Andujar a September call-up — “I think at some point he will be (up). As of right now, we have not made that decision to bring him up,” said Joe Girardi to Brendan Kuty earlier this week — and I don’t expect him to play a whole lot down the stretch. The Yankees are in the postseason race and they’re going to lean on their regulars. Where Andujar fits in the long-term is another question. For now, he’s raised his prospect stock quite a bit the last two years, and this year he showed a rare combination of power and contact.

DotF: Tampa makes a big comeback in first postseason game

A few notes to get us started:

  • Because of Hurricane Irma, the Florida State League Championship Series has been canceled, the league announced. The winners of the Tampa-Dunedin and Palm Beach-Fort Myers series will be co-champions. Game Two and, if necessary, Game Three of the best-of-three series will be played tomorrow. They’re going to play a doubleheader rather than stretch the series out to Wednesday.
  • RHP Taylor Widener has been promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. That is at least partly due to Hurricane Irma. Widener was lined up to pitch for Tampa on Wednesday, but there won’t be a game that day now, so he’s going to Trenton to help them. Last year’s 12th round pick had a 3.39 ERA (3.05 FIP) with 26.4% strikeouts and 10.4% walks in 119.1 innings with Tampa this year.
  • Eric Longenhagen (subs. req’d) ranked the ten position player prospects with the most upside in the minors. OF Estevan Florial was seventh. “Florial has high-effort, plus-plus bat speed and a bat path that allows for power to all fields, similar to Ian Happ of the Cubs. Florial is an aggressive hitter, which leads to some strikeouts, but he has 25-plus-homer potential,” says the write-up.
  • In a separate piece (subs. req’d), Longenhagen ranked the ten pitching prospects with the most upside. RHP Jorge Guzman ranks ninth. “New York made a subtle change to the tempo of his delivery, and Guzman has been throwing more strikes this year while sitting 96-plus with his fastball, touching 102 mph, and holding that velocity deep into his starts … (There’s) a chance Guzman matures into developing two bat-missing secondary pitches to go with passable control and his elite velocity,” says the write-up.
  • OF Isiah Gilliam was named the Low-A South Atlantic League Player of the Week. He went 10-for-18 (.556) with a double, a triple, a homer, seven walks, and only two strikeouts last week. Gilliam, 21, hit .275/.356/.468 (137 wRC+) with 33 doubles and 15 homers this year. The Yankees gave him $550,000 as their 20th round pick a few years ago because he has power from both sides of the plate, and it showed this year.

Triple-A Scranton‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins tomorrow. Conor Foley says the rotation will be RHP Domingo German, RHP Chance Adams, RHP Brady Lail, LHP Nestor Cortes, and RHP Ronald Herrera in that order.

Double-A Trenton‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-five first round postseason series with Binghamton (Mets) begins tomorrow. RHP Dillon Tate is the scheduled starter for Game One.

High-A Tampa (8-6 win over Dunedin in ten innings) they fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, but rallied to win … the Fighting Spirit extends down into the minors too … Tampa leads the best-of-three series one game to none

  • 2B Hoy Jun Park: 2-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K — Hoy Jun Judge
  • SS Kyle Holder: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K — had the game-tying single with two outs in the ninth
  • 3B Gosuke Katoh: 1-6, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 3 K
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 1-5, 1 K
  • CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — dude is amazing
  • 1B Tim Lynch: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the tenth … last year’s ninth rounder smacked 13 home runs in only 57 games during the regular season
  • C Donny Sands: 1-4
  • RF Alex Palma: 1-5
  • RHP Brian Keller: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 E (pickoff) — 19 of 36 pitches were strikes (53%) … had such a marvelous regular season, then he gets clobbered in the first inning of the postseason
  • RHP Adonis Rosa: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 64 of 94 pitches were strikes (68%) … unsung hero restored order and gave the offense a chance to get back in the game
  • RHP Matt Frawley: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HB, 2/2 GB/FB — 22 of 39 pitches were strikes (56%)

Low-A Charleston‘s regular season is over. Their best-of-three first round postseason series with Greenville (Red Sox) begins tomorrow. RHP Freicer Perez will be on the mound in Game One.

Short Season Staten Island is waiting out a very long rain delay. Game hadn’t started as of 10pm ET. Here’s the box score if they ever start playing. Their regular season ends Thursday and they’ve already clinched a postseason spot.

Rookie Pulaski has advanced to the Appalachian League Championship Series. They’re going to play either Elizabethton (Twins) or Greeneville (Astros) in the best-of-three series. Game Three between Elizabethton and Greeneville was rained out tonight. They’ll play the decisive game tomorrow, then they’ll begin the Championship Series on Thursday (I think).

Rookie GCL Yanks East (2-1 win over GCL Nationals) the best-of-three GCL Championship Series is now tied at one game apiece, so tomorrow’s game is for all the marbles

  • SS Jose Devers: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 1 E (throwing)
  • CF Robert Javier: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — singled in what proved to be the winning run in the seventh inning
  • RF Canaan Smith: 0-2, 1 BB, 2 K — left the game after striking out in the sixth … I think he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, through the box score usually notes that … maybe not in the GCL?
  • DH Jhon Moronta & 1B Nelson Alvarez: both 0-4 — Moronta struck out
  • RHP Roansy Contreras: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 4/5 GB/FB — last year’s prized international signing came up big in the elimination game
  • LHP Deivi Diaz: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 Balk, 2/2 GB/FB

Rookie GCL Yanks West‘s season is over. They did not qualify for the postseason.

DotF: Austin goes deep twice on final day of the minor league regular season

SS Gleyber Torres has started swinging a bat as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. Matt Kardos shared Gleyber’s Instagram story. Torres is wearing a brace on his left arm, which is to be expected less than three months out from surgery, and it seems everything with his rehab is going well so far. Good news.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Lehigh Valley) their regular season is over … they went 86-55 and won the division … their best-of-five first round postseason series with Lehigh Valley (Phillies) begins Wednesday … RHP Domingo German and RHP Chance Adams are lined up to start the first two games of the series, though the rotation hasn’t been officially announced yet

  • CF Jake Cave: 1-5, 1 K — finishes the year at .305/.350/.542 with 26 doubles, 20 homers, 6.4% walks, and 26.3% strikeouts in 103 games between Trenton and Scranton … the 20 homers tie 1B Mike Ford for the farm system lead
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-5, 1 K — he got off to a pretty slow start this season if you remember, yet he finishes at .277/.336/.483 with 29 doubles, 16 home runs, 7.8% walks, and 18.8% strikeouts in 124 games between Trenton and Scranton
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K — finishes his breakout season at .314/.352/.498 with 36 doubles, 16 home runs, 5.5% walks, and 13.6% strikeouts in 125 games between Trenton and Tampa … the 16 homers are a career high, and he led the system in doubles (36) and hits (151)
  • DH Tyler Austin: 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — hit one of the home runs against former big leaguer Henderson Alvarez … his ten days since being sent down are up tomorrow, so I think we’ll see him in Baltimore
  • RHP Jose Pena: 2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 Balk, 1 HB, 1/0 GB/FB — 31 of 57 pitches were strikes (54%) … up from Tampa to soak up some innings on the final day of the season
  • LHP Joe Mantiply: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 19 of 32 pitches were strikes (59%) … had a 2.83 ERA with a 62/18 K/BB in 67 do-it-all innings

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DotF: Medina keeps Pulaski alive in Appy League postseason

Double-A Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year, so congrats to him. Al Pedrique and Jay Bell were previously named Manager of the Year in the Triple-A International League and High-A Florida State League, respectively, so the Yankees won the award at the three highest levels in the system. Pretty cool.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley in seven innings, walk-off style)

  • LF Tyler Wade: 2-4, 1 R, 2 K — threw a runner out at the plate … he was scheduled to play left field last night before the rainout … probably not a coincidence after the Aaron Hicks injury
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-2, 1 BB — he slid into MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list when Rafael Devers graduated to the big leagues tonight
  • DH Billy McKinney: 1-3, 1 2B
  • RF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 4.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 4/5 GB/FB — 41 of 68 pitches were strikes (60%) … I guess he’s going to spend the postseason here rather than Trenton
  • RHP Jonathan Holder: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 22 of 38 pitches were strikes (58%) … eight walks in 16 minor league innings this year after seven walks in 65.1 minor league innings last year

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DotF: Florial has a big game in Tampa’s win

Two quick injury rehab notes to pass along:

  • Clint Frazier (oblique) worked out and hit in the cage with Double-A Trenton today, reports Kyle Franko. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll play rehab games with the Thunder. Trenton is home and Triple-A Scranton is on the road, so maybe the Yankees didn’t want him traveling too far. Anyway, Frazier is no longer with the Yankees. He’s now rehabbing with an affiliate.
  • 1B Garrett Cooper (hamstring) was scratched from today’s rehab game with Trenton with an illness, reports Franko. They told him to stay home and not even come to the ballpark. Cooper is supposed to rehab with Trenton through the weekend, then rejoin the Yankees. I’m not sure if the illness changes anything.

Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton were both rained out. They’re going to play doubleheaders tomorrow. Playing a doubleheader on the second to last day of the season when you’ve already clinched the division title and a postseason spot must not be very fun.

High-A Tampa (6-1 win over Lakeland)

  • SS Kyle Holder: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 K
  • CF Estevan Florial: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB — a lot of times kids his age (19) will wear down and fade late in the season, but not Florial … he’s mashing right to the very end
  • C Donny Sands: 1-4, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • RHP Taylor Widener: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1/2 GB/FB — the converted reliever finishes his regular season with a 3.39 ERA and a 129/50 K/BB in 119.1 innings
  • RHP Matt Frawley: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K — finishes the regular season with a 1.63 ERA and a 76/12 K/BB in 71.2 total innings … he came over from the Pirates in the Johnny Barbato trade a few months back

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DotF: Gilliam’s hot streak continues in Charleston’s loss

Two quick notes before we get to the day’s games:

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted some scouting notes on RHP Chance Adams (“given his repertoire and delivery, I’d bet heavily that he’ll end up in relief”), OF Billy McKinney (“still has a very pretty left-handed swing”), SS Tyler Wade (“should end up as someone’s every-day shortstop”), and 3B Miguel Andujar (“at least a solid regular at third”).
  • 3B Dermis Garcia placed ninth on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. “Charleston’s Joseph P. Riley Park is no place for a power hitter, with a long history as a pitcher’s park, but the 19 year-old third baseman slugged three homers this week, including game winners Wednesday and Thursday night,” noted the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (5-3 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-3, 2 2B, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 CS — he can’t come back up until Monday because of the ten-day rule
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-5, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-4 — he has to wait until Tuesday because of the ten-day rule
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-3, 1 K
  • RF Mason Williams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 14-for-29 (.483) in his last eight games
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 5/7 GB/FB — 61 of 100 pitches were strikes
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 1/2 GB/FB — 20 of 33 pitches were strikes (61%) … gave up a home run tonight … always amuses me when homers go for unearned runs
  • RHP Nick Rumbelow: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 16 of 21 pitches were strikes (76%)

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DotF: Garcia homers, Charleston clinches a postseason spot

In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees acquired C Erik Kratz from the Indians for cash. He’s been assigned to Triple-A Scranton. Two other catcher notes from Conor Foley: C Wilkin Castillo (knee) was placed on the Triple-A disabled list and C Kyle Higashioka (shoulder) was healthy enough to take batting practice today. That’s good.

Triple-A Scranton (5-1 loss to Rochester)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 K — so I guess whatever led to him being pulled from last night’s game was no big deal
  • DH Matt Holliday: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB — 7-for-35 (.200) in ten rehab games … no surprise here, but manager Al Pedrique told Conor Foley that Holliday will rejoin the Yankees tomorrow
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 1 2B — here’s video of the double, which might’ve been into the short porch in the Bronx
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-2, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Billy McKinney, RF Jake Cave & CF Mason Williams: all 0-3 — McKinney struck out twice, Cave once, Williams zero times
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 65 of 102 pitches were strikes (64%) … this was his final start of the regular season … he finishes the year with a 2.45 ERA and a 135/58 K/BB in 150.1 innings … he had a 144/39 K/BB in 127.1 innings last year

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