Analysis

Can Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres Avoid Sophomore Slumps?

With sophomore slumps seemingly being unavoidable in MLB, is it possible Miguel Andujar and Gleyber could try to avoid this slump?

In 2018, the Yankees called up two future stars in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Andujar took over the starting job at third base and Torres at second. Both finished as Rookie of the Year finalists and played a big part in the Yankees winning 100 games.

There’s no doubt the talent is there. But the question is: Will they be plagued by the infamous sophomore slump? It’s impossible to predict. But what we do know is progression is not linear and every player develops at their own pace.

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Andujar hit .297/.328/.527 (128 wRC+) with 27 homers. Steamers project Miggy’s production to slightly falling to a well above-average 114 wRC+. Torres, on the other hand, hit .271/.340/.480 (120 wRC+) with 24 home runs and Steamers projects him to also take a bit of a step back with a 108 wRC+.

Of course, projections aren’t everything. They’re simply educated guesses based on similar age groups and production. Two ROY finalists might be more prone to hold off a sophomore slump than a regular guy going from year one to year two. Or, maybe not?

There have been 65 position players who have finished in the top three in Rookie of the Year voting between 2003-2017, and the sophomore slump seems pretty real, even for them. Andujar and Torres were both worth over 2.0 WAR last season, but a player’s WAR drops by about 0.42 wins from rookie to sophomore year. Also, wRC+ declines by about 12.5 points. That would mean the projections are right in line with how the typical ROY finalist has regressed.

A decline is not inevitable. Every player improves differently. But 16 players in this set of 65 declined by two wins or more, while only six improved by two wins or more. While 51% of the set declined, it seems that players tend to take a larger step back than forward.

Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge are two prime examples. Both were excellent in their rookie seasons, and both declined in their sophomore campaigns. We all saw Sanchez’s dramatic decline, but while Judge was still very good, he did decline as well. Judge’s wRC+ dropped 32 points and he was worth 3.2 fewer wins from year one to year two. He did miss a significant portion of the season, but he still would have had a decline based on the trajectory he was on.

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Again, this isn’t to say that Andujar and Torres can’t improve. There are other things they can focus on besides just hitting. Both players can stand to improve their defense tremendously. Andujar can’t get any worse and Torres definitely has the ability. Not to mention, Torres can work to be smarter on the base paths and strike out less, while Andujar can look to walk more often.

Progression is not linear, and there’s a good chance that Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will take a step back in 2019. But that’s okay. This Yankees team is built to withstand it. If both players can improve in ways other than just hitting, then they’ll be just fine.

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