Andujar Getting There

Miguel Andujar has been great for over a month now

CHARLESTON, SC - Waiting for a supremely talented player to prove it on the field can be a real test of patience. Charleston third baseman Miguel Andujar entered the season with a world of potential but did not immediately show it out of the gate. He's been hitting a lot better lately, however, and proving he's getting closer to becoming the top prospect many believe him to be.

[Rachel Wadsworth contributed to this article]

Andujar, like most youngsters entering their first taste of the long-season leagues, struggled at the beginning of the season. He hit just .212 in his first 63 games with the RiverDogs and posted a meager .601 OPS.

"The beginning of the season was a little bit of a struggle obviously adapting to a new atmosphere, playing under the lights, being 19 years old and handling all of the daily routines," Charleston manager Luis Dorante said, "he's been handling it pretty well though.

"There's a lot to learn and he's been doing pretty good on that. Offensively, defensively, there's good stuff there."

Often times critics forget the real life adjustments needed to be made, but especially for foreign born, teenage ball players. Case in point -- 2014 is the first year in his life that Andujar has had to play night games.

"Some guys see a big difference," Dorante noted. "They never play under the lights in the Dominican and when they come here it takes time to adjust. I think it's just a matter of keep throwing him out there and hopefully he can figure it out."

Not only did Andujar have to figure out how to see the ball differently but he also had to learn to balance being patient at the plate but also not letting good pitches go to waste either.

Throw in the other little nuances of pitch recognition, the chess-like fashion of pitch sequencing, and even something as seemingly simple as consistent arm angles on his throws from third base defensively, taking it all in can be a daunting and grueling task.

"I felt a little loss at the plate in the beginning," Andujar admitted through the help of a translator. "I feel more comfortable now and mentally I'm ready for every at-bat.

"Mechanically, loading early and being ready to go, being ready to hit early, and mentally, being ready to hit early and not thinking too much and just keeping it simple, those are things I've done better at."

Development is a process, a point Andujar has quickly learned this season. The more repetitions he got defensively and the more at-bats he has received have been vital in his ever-growing game, and the results have proven it.

He has been a completely different player for the past month plus, hitting a robust .323 with an .866 OPS in his past 36 games.

"He was okay in the beginning of the season," hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez said. "He was doing good things mechanically but he was just trying to do too much.

"Now he understands that by doing too much he's [actually] doing a lot less. It's just a learning process for a young guy but he's on board now with it and it shows that he's a lot more comfortable at the plate.

"He's been getting into a strong position early and under control. His [quick] hands are his number one tool so he's been better at seeing the ball and recognizing the ball early so he's swinging at good pitches and using the quick hands that he has."

Learning to allow the game to come to him is yet another priceless lesson any young baseball prospect must learn. It is a fine line, however, between being too passive and too aggressive.

"He's been more aggressive in fastball counts and that's what he needs to do," Dorante added. "He's got the potential to drive the ball, it's just a matter of being more aggressive and he's been doing that the last [several] weeks."

Andujar has been able to find that incredibly hard balance in recent weeks between not trying to do too much but at the same time attacking good pitches to hit.

Frankly, all he needed earlier this season was more time and experience, and those are the two biggest things he needs going forward to becoming the special player many believe he can and will be someday.

"There's a lot more to come," Dorante said, "it's just a matter of staying consistent with his swing. He's got a strong arm and he's got gap to gap power. He's got two plus, plus tools there.

"He's got some home run power, it's just a matter of being able to stay consistent with it, drive the ball, and stay aggressive like he's been doing.

"I think the more experience he gets the better it's going to be for him to figure out when to let it go and when not to. He just needs more experience."

Getting better with each passing week, there's no telling how far Andujar can take his game as he continues to adjust and gain more experience.

"His confidence at the plate, the ability to put the barrel on the ball, he's very special," Gonzalez said. "The explosiveness with his hands and his body, he just needs to tone it down and when he tones his explosiveness down he's going to get where he needs to be. To me that's his main tool, his aggressiveness, so we've got to tame him a little bit.

"I don't think he ever lost his confidence, he was just trying to do too much. Now that he understands what he has to do at the plate, with his confidence, he's shown what he can do and the things he's capable of.

"He's getting there. This is my third year with him. He's a very special hitter. I think he's getting close to where he needs to be. Hopefully he continues to do that the rest of his career because we're going to see him for a long time," Gonzalez concluded.

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