If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2020 – Third Base
This article is the second in my series on how I would build the 2020 Yankees.
The first segment focused on shortstop and second base.
Today we’ll look at third base.
Readers of the previous segment in this series know that I left them with a cliffhanger of sorts. If I were the General Manager, I would make D.J. LeMahieu the starting second baseman. By doing this, it opens up the role that he played in 2019. In the last segment I promised that I would share who my utility infielder would be in 2020 in this installment of this series.
And so I must.
We must look at third base.
There is a third baseman available who recently put up the following slash line:
.297/.328/.527 with 47 doubles, 27 homers, and 92 runs batted in.
It would be nice if the Yankees could pencil that bat into their lineup. And they can. If I were General Manager, they would. Absolutely.
On my 2020 Yankees, Miguel Andujar resumes his role as the Yankees’ starting third baseman. Andujar will be entering his age-25 season and, assuming he’s healthy, he should be primed to enter into five or six seasons of mashing the baseball. Andjuar’s upside is enormous. His bat can be elite. And I think it will be.
Readers might cringe at the thought of Andujar’s terrible defense. I do as well. But, I am also optimistic, because I’ve seen it happen with so many other third basemen in baseball history – poor defenders who, over time, became passable at the position. Andujar is athletic. He can improve. And I think he will improve.
I know a lot of fans and writers would like to see Andujar at first base, in the outfield, or as the designated hitter. I don’t want to see Andujar at first or in the outfield, positions he’s never played, and I would hate to have him tie-up the DH spot. I think the Yankees need that position for someone else. I also have a idea for first base (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).
To me, Andujar’s value comes as a third baseman. At the hot corner, his bat plays very well. He is an above average offensive third baseman. His batting skills are less “elite” at first base or designated hitter. Andujar’s greatest value comes as a third baseman. And that’s where he should play.
The hope is that he can defense well enough to be passable. Again, I think he can…over time. One thing we saw from Andujar was that he works very hard to improve. I believe his hard work will pay off.
But if doesn’t, there is a safety net.
And that’s where Gio Urshela comes in. In 2019, Urshela slashed:
.314/.355/.534 with 34 doubles, 21 homers, and 74 runs batted in.
The problem is that no one truly knows if that was a real indication of his true abilities as a batter. There is a chance, maybe a better than even chance, that Urshela becomes the .225 hitter with little power that he was before this season. There have been a plethora of batters who had what seemed to be a breakout year, only to fall back to Earth the next (and all the following) years.
Also of note, Urshela had two periods during the 2019 season that seemed to indicate that when he played too much, he seemed to either tire or become exposed to the rest of the league. See this chart from Baseball-Reference:
Urshela’s worse two months, June and September, came after the only two months (May and August) when he started more than 20 games and when he had more than 80 at bats. Is there something to that? Who knows? It just seemed that when Urshela played too much, his performance dropped. The numbers seem to indicate that fact.
On my 2020 Yankees, Gio Urshela would play the important roles of being Miguel Andujar’s defensive replacement late in close games while also serving as the primary utility infielder. Urshela would become 2020’s D.J. LeMahieu – the player the Yankees can play in any infield spot. And, unlike LeMahieu in 2019, Urshela had experience playing each infield position in the minor leagues, including shortstop.
In the end, I’m banking on Miguel Andujar’s bat, his age, and his future. I plug him in at third base knowing that if he cannot field the position well enough, I have an able and ready Gio Urshela who can take over if necessary. (If that becomes the case, I would then slot Thairo Estrada as the utility infielder.)
My 2020 Yankees as reported thus far:
MGR – Aaron Boone
PITCHING COACH – Dave Righetti
2B – D.J. LeMahieu
SS – Gleyber Torres
3B – Miguel Andujar
UTL – Gio Urshela