Andujar Heating Up Again

TAMPA, FL - Miguel Andujar made a name for himself last year with a very disappointing beginning to his season in Charleston before ending the season smoking hot at the plate. Flash forward to 2015 and he might be doing the exact thing once again, only this time a level higher in Tampa.

Andujar had been slumping really badly most of this year in the Florida State League, hitting rock bottom in early July when he was hitting only .203 with a low on-base percentage of .246, a precipitous fall of sorts from last year after he finished his 2014 season with a .267 average and an on-base percentage of .318 while playing for the Charleston RiverDogs down in low A-Ball.

After a disastrous first half to the season this year, just like last season, the 20-year old out of the Dominican Republic has heated up in the second half. After hitting just .212 in his first 64 games, he's now hitting .282 over his last 43 games hitting and .304 in his last 36 games. Compared to last season there seems to be a trend of Andujar starting off the season slow before turning it around come the All-Star break and then finishing out the season on a tear.

This year though he’s had to adjust to a much harder league and the large credit for this kind of turn around goes to Andujar with the adjustments he’s made during the season. Hitting coach Tommy Slater has taken notice of these changes firsthand.

“I just think he’s doing a much better job of pitch selection and using the whole field, ” Slater said. “He’s just had to make the necessary adjustments that all young kids make, especially considering that he’s 20 years old playing in a league where the average age is around 23.”

When starting off the season slow it can affect a player’s confidence as well as his mental state, which might have extended his slump later into the season. Andujar though appears to have straightened out the mental aspects of the game.

“At the beginning of the year I felt really good," Andujar said through the help of a translator. "I felt like I was swinging the bat pretty well and then after a month or so it kind of got a little confusing for me. I had a lot of things swimming around in my head, but lately the past few weeks I have simplified things and I really developed a plan for myself when I go up to the plate.”

Some of his early struggles can also be attributed to a lack of familiarity with the pitchers in this league with many of them having more experience over him. Adjusting to the new pitchers takes time and watching lots of tape, but nothing is as useful as just live action.

“At the beginning of the year [you are] just trying to get use to the league, your own team and the other teams," he continued. "The second time through, the second half of the season, you start to see everybody and get use to the pitchers with how they’re going to pitch you. It’s important to make adjustments and I’ve been able to do that here in the second half.”

One area of concern for Andujar is the lack of power that he has shown this season, He has only five home runs and a .347 slugging percentage, which is down from last season, and it's coming from a position that is typically known as a power-hitting position. Manager Dave Bialas though isn’t concerned about it one bit.

“He’s a strong kid," Bialas said. "This is just a hard league to show power. There’s a lot of balls he’s hit that would be out of any other ballpark. Here in the Florida State League the parks are big and the air is heavy. The league leader has only like 12 home runs in this league. Just looking at the speed of the ball coming off his bat will show you all the power he has.”

It’s not only the offensive side of his game that Andujar has been able to turn around, but his defensive side as well. He committed 18 errors in the first half of the season but has only had five more errors since then. It’s a tribute to his work ethic on fixing a glaring problem.

“He made a lot of throwing errors early in the season and now he’s throwing accurately," Bialas said. "He still has some work to do though but he has done a good job of getting the feel of the good hop and not an in-between hop. His range has improved which shows the improvements he’s made in his game."

If Andujar can shake off his slow starts on both sides of the ball and make his game more consistent then there’s no telling how far he can climb up the organization. It certainly helps that he knows how to make the adjustments to his game, a point he's proven quite strongly now over the course of two seasons.

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