The Yankees hit 241 homers in 2017, then traded for Giancarlo Stanton. It’s no surprise that one of their 8,000 players in camp this spring leads the Grapefruit League in long balls. If that player was Stanton, Aaron Judge, or Gary Sanchez we probably wouldn’t care very much. No one evaluates established stars based on their spring stats. Whether Judge hits 20 home runs in March or none at all, it won’t change his PECOTA projections. But when it’s a prospect like Miguel Andujar, we sit up and take notice.
As soon as they start playing ballgames, someone has to lead the league in each category. Andujar’s four home runs place him on top of the leaderboard. He also smacked a few doubles and a pair of singles, bringing his slash line to .421/.421/1.158. Yes, you read that slugging percentage correctly. It’s still Spring Training though, and nothing means anything, but let’s see if this means something.
Home Run #1
On February 26, Andujar played the second shift against the Phillies. In his second plate appearance of the game, he took someone named Ranger Suarez deep in the bottom of the ninth, securing a walk-off 4-3 victory. More importantly, he prevented either extra innings or a tie, both of which sound just awful for February baseball.
Any prospect evaluator worth their salt will tell you never to scout the stat line, but Ranger Suarez is such a token Spring Training-filler name that we have little choice. Born just a few months after Andujar, Suarez signed with the Phillies out of Venezuela at age 16 (obviously he should’ve signed with Texas instead). He posted a 2.27 ERA with 9.4 K/9 between the South Atlantic and Florida State Leagues in 2017, becoming detectable on the most sensitive of prospect radars. MLB.com ranks him as the #15 prospect in the Phillies system, calling him a “soft-tossing lefty” with “an above average feel for pitching.”
Should we be impressed that Andujar cracked one off a low-velocity lefty in the ninth inning off a Spring Training game? Probably not. There’s a reason Suarez was on the mound so late in the game yet so early in the spring. He probably begins the year in A+ or AA.
Home Run #2
The day after his walk-off heroics, Andujar got the start at third base against the Blue Jays. He went deep again, this time off Justin Shafer in the sixth inning. The solo shot tied the score at 3-3, and the Yankees went on to win 9-8. A bunch of guys with very high uniform numbers did a lot hitting that day.
Shafer is somehow even less of a prospect than Ranger Suarez. After flaming out as a Florida State League starter in 2016, Shafer pitched exclusively in relief last season at age 24. He spent most of it in AA, and while he only allowed 6.9 H/9 his peripherals were middling. He is not listed among MLB.com’s top 30 Blue Jays prospects.
Again, this is just not terribly exciting. While it’s nice to hit homers on consecutive days, the quality of competition leaves a lot to be desired.
Home Run #3
On March 1, Andujar started at DH as the Yankees took on the Phillies again. In the third inning, he connected off starting pitcher Nick Pivetta to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Hey, a real major leaguer! For some strange reason, Philadelphia gave Pivetta 26 starts last year. The results were pretty awful: 5.41 DRA over 133 IP with 25 HR allowed. His 24% K rate wasn’t bad though, and Roster Resource lists him as the Phillies #4 starter heading into the season. Still, taking him deep seems less like a feat of strength and more like a prerequisite for any major league hitter. But Andujar wasn’t done! In his next at-bat…
Home Run #4
…Andujar smoked one off Pedro Beato in the fourth inning to increase the Yankee lead to 2-0. Did you realize Beato was still around? Me neither. He bounced around the majors as a reliever from 2011-14. Apparently, he continued to pitch in the minors during the last three seasons, returning to the bigs for one game this past July. He’s in camp with the Phillies this year as a non-roster invite.
This is the beauty of Spring Training. Someone like Miguel Andujar can blast 4 HR off pitchers who are basically major leaguers in name only, and we’ll anoint him as the next breakout slugger. Of course, these early homers don’t mean anything. But because he’s a highly touted, major league-ready prospect, each baseball he clobbers only compounds the excitement about his future.
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