In 149 games, Andujar posted an .855 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and hit .297, topped only by the Washington Nationals star Anthony Rendon among major league third baseman. Andujar’s 27 homers and 92 runs batted in trailed only Giancarlo Stanton on the Yankees.
But in the field, Andujar was shaky. While he committed 15 errors — and last year’s A.L. Gold Glove winner at the position, Oakland’s Matt Chapman, was charged with 20 — Andujar struggled in other regards. Advanced defensive metrics rated him the worst fielding third baseman among those with at least 900 innings last season. In the do-or-die Game 4 of the A.L. divisional series against the Boston Red Sox, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone opted for Neil Walker at third base instead of Andujar.
“He exceeded his developmental projections, on defense especially,” Cashman said of Andujar. “We just have to give him time and be patient and give him the chance to close those gaps. The old adage of ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ and he has a lot of will.”
So to enact all the desired changes for this season, the Yankees and Andujar recognized that he needed extra instruction over the winter.
A month after the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs by the Red Sox in October, Andujar spent a few days with Boone and the Yankees’ infield instructor, Carlos Mendoza, both former infielders, at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa.
Afterward, Andujar returned to the Dominican Republic and continued his off-season training with private trainers to improve his agility. In January, Mendoza and Boone, on a trip to see several Yankees players, worked with Andujar at the Yankees’ academy and checked on his progress.
The Yankees zeroed in on two areas for Andujar: how he throws the ball and how he uses his feet.
They saw that Andujar had a tendency to throw sidearm. That is fine when charging a chopping ground ball or throwing from an awkward angle. But on routine plays, the Yankees believed it was affecting his accuracy. Sidearm throws can sail to the side as they approach first base.