25 Sep 2020 5:22 PM +00:00

New York Yankees: Brandon Drury's demotion could mean the end

(Photo Credit: John Dalton)

It was a tailor-made double play. Sure, it was hit hard, but the ball that came off of Jonathan Schoop's bat was a worm-killer. A carpet-burner all the way into the outfield after Neil Walker, playing first base for this half of the twin bill, did his best Jonathan Bernier impression and let the ball slip through the five-hole.

The loss was another disappointing effort for a Yankees team that seems to thrive against the tough competition but under-perform against those who should be beaten. This Yankees loss put them further behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East; the Orioles, who stopped a six-game skid, won only their 25th game while sitting as the worst team in baseball.

So when it was announced between games that Brandon Drury, who the Yankees traded for prior to the start of the season, would be demoted to Triple-A Scranton, it seemed more like an admission of misjudgment on the Yankees part rather than lack of production on Drury's end. Since June 30, where he faced Major League pitching for the first time since April 6th, Drury accumulated three hits and three RBI. It's a small sample size; Neil Walker and Greg Bird have had equally underwhelming performances in twice as many at-bats as Drury's meager 22. 

Drury's demotion seems more like an admission that Cashman and Co. made a mistake when they traded for the infielder. What exactly went wrong?

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Blurred Vision

Have you ever faced a fastball traveling 90mph or more? It's hard to pick up for the untrained eye. Even for the professional batter, it's no small feat to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely on a pitch that can top out at 104mph, so imagine seeing such prolific speeds with blurred vision. 

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That's what contributed to Drury's DL stint at the beginning of the season. After suffering a series of migraines that had been connected with his unreliable vision, Drury underwent comprehensive studies and medical tests to determine the root of a problem that has plagued him over the course of his entire baseball career.

Recall in 2017 when Drury hit .267 with 37 doubles for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Such an accomplishment is a testament to his bravery, let alone his skill to see a ball that rises, cuts, curves, and sinks unpredictably. So when they determined the root of the issue, there were many wondering just how good of a hitter Drury could be with 100% clear vision. 

His resurgence began in Triple-A Scranton, where a slash of .314/.419/.482 proved that the 25-year-old was ready to return to the majors. His recalling to the Yankees was long delayed, even as Drury continued to take reps at first and second base to provide an insurance policy to the struggling Walker and Bird. 

His performance, albeit a small sample size, since his return had been underwhelming, however.

Players arriving early

Miguel Andujar has cemented himself as the starting third baseman, relegating Drury to a role of Major League depth toiling away in the minor leagues. 

There was no question Andujar could hit, but not at a clip that has catapulted himself in a race with teammate Gleyber Torres for AL Rookie of the Year. He's also played a more-than-adequate third base, supplementing a cannon of a right arm with a steady enough glove to where Andujar isn't a glaring disadvantage even with the superior-fielding Drury. 

The reality of the Drury acquisition is this: no one in the Yankees' organization thought Andujar was ready to play third base every day in the majors. The bat was there, clear in a Spring Training display that left him with a .267/.306/.622 that has translated to .279/.309/.500 in 298 at-bats with the Yankees. The glove, which has accrued six errors to a .968 fielding percentage, will continue to develop with more reps, and the Yankees have given him the full vote of confidence at Drury's expense.

Final Thoughts

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That's not to say there isn't any value left in Drury. If he keeps getting reps at first-base in the minors he could become a nice right-handed platoon option for the ever-struggling Greg Bird. Drury is just an injury away from being a major leaguer again, and there's no guarantee the 23-year-old Andujar can maintain the level production in the second half of the season. 

But Drury's demotion to Triple-A following Monday's afternoon game seemed to be a clear message by the Yankees' organization. They have tethered a short leash on Drury while simultaneously providing inexcusable slack in Walker's that could end up choking them. 

It could all mean the Yankees only want Drury to have consistent reps, and that a bench role in the major leagues would be detrimental to his development. But Drury has three years of Major League experience, and, in his own words, "he doesn't belong" in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-barre. 

His demotion on Monday might as well have been the proverbial nail in a pinstriped coffin. 

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