A longtime American League evaluator discussed the defense of New York Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar last week, and noted the journey of Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. In his climb through the minor leagues, Boggs was regarded as a subpar defender, with a habit of drifting forward at the release of the pitch, too often leaving him in a disadvantageous position to make a play.
Some in the Boston Red Sox organization thought that Boggs would never be adequate enough at third base to hold down the position. But one of Boggs' best tools, as it turned out, was an outstanding work ethic, and he improved beyond mediocrity, winning a couple of Gold Gloves in a career in which he won five batting titles and racked up 3,010 hits.
The evaluator believes that the development of Andujar, as with other young, defensively challenged third basemen, "hinges on makeup. Willingness to put in work, including fitness."
Andujar's consistently strong effort instills confidence within the Yankees organization that he will benefit from his offseason program and improve his defense. He has worked extensively with instructors this winter, and in the past few days, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was in the Dominican Republic, partly to see Andujar's progress and spend time with him.
Andujar's improvement at third will be much scrutinized in the season ahead because of the Yankees' offseason choices. The Yankees have the financial might to outbid all other teams for the services of Manny Machado, an excellent defender who could be a long-term solution at third base for New York. But the Yankees, perhaps leery of taking on another whopper long-term deal, signed Troy Tulowitzki to be a stopgap at shortstop, as Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery, and agreed to terms with DJ LeMahieu to be a superutility player. The Yankees' talks with Machado are either dormant or completely dead, and unless Machado accepts far less money from the Yankees than he might get elsewhere, Andujar will be back at third base.