BALTIMORE — Aaron Hicks first went to the hitter’s manual in expressing what most impresses him about Miguel Andujar.
“Just his approach,” Hicks said. “He’s able to make adjustments day in and day out, every single day. It’s kind of a veteran type of approach and it’s awesome to see on a daily basis.”
Hicks paused, then smiled.
“That or he’s just insanely good at hitting,” he said. “Probably both.”
Andujar, a touted prospect for a couple of years but very much an unknown quantity when spring training broke this season, has excelled from the time Brandon Drury went to the disabled list in early April.
Installed as the starter at third by circumstance more than anything else, he grabbed hold of the job, never let go and has turned himself into the favorite for American League Rookie of the Year honors.
After totaling four hits in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Orioles, Andujar entered Sunday night’s game with a .300/.330/.526 slash line. He came into Sunday leading all MLB rookies in batting average, extra-base hits (59), doubles (36), RBIs (70) and multi-hit games (43) and was tied for the rookie lead in homers with 21.
And in Sunday's game, he singled in the second inning, added a two-out, two-run double to rightfield in the third and singled in the fifth to help the Yankees take a 4-0 lead.
“I think he’s getting more and more comfortable,” Aaron Boone said. “I think we saw this early, his adjustability, and I think the intelligence he shows in the box, he’s good at having a plan. But I think he’s got a really good idea of what teams are doing to him and what pitchers are doing to him.”
The adjustability, Boone said, shows itself in how pitchers strategize to get Andujar out and the rookie’s reaction.
“I think he’s a really talented hitter with a lot of swing versatility,” Boone said. “Meaning, he’s not a guy you necessarily pitch one way and are going to get him out. Like some guys are a low-ball hitter and if you make that mistake, they make you pay, but if you execute on them, there’s holes where you can go. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of holes.”
Boone added: “I feel like he has adjustability within the strike zone that he can handle a lot of different pitches, a lot of different zones, a lot of different pitches from fastball to off-speed. You can’t necessarily get him out one way, and I think that lends itself to him being consistently a very tough out.”
Andujar, signed by the Yankees as an international free agent in July 2011, said it is something he’s worked on throughout his rise through the Yankees’ system.
“That’s something you develop as you go through the many different levels of professional baseball,” he said through his translator. “I always have a plan in mind and it’s a matter of executing that plan.”
Andujar said there’s plenty of study involved.
“It’s a matter of keeping your head in the game, seeing the pitcher, understanding what he’s trying to do out there, have an idea what he’s trying to do depending on the count,” he said. “I’m just happy I’m getting good results right now.”
That’s been particularly important of late with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and, more recently, Didi Gregorius missing. Since Judge went to the disabled list July 27, for example, Andujar is hitting .315 with a .949 OPS, nine homers, six doubles, 19 runs and 29 RBIs in 28 games.
“Obviously, being banged up, we’ve needed guys to step up, and he’s gone right into the middle of that lineup,” Boone said. “He’s a guy you feel good about when he comes up to the plate, especially in a big spot with runners on, no matter who’s out there on the mound.”