The question seems rather simple, but it’s actually rather complex if you break it down. Just how good is Elvis Andrus? On one hand, he was the second best shortstop on ESPN’s 2013 Rater. Although injuries played a major role in this, he outranked the likes of Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki. Not bad. On the other hand, how much growth has he really shown since finishing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009? Take a look.
The bottom numbers would indicate that he’s improved at getting on base, the nine-point jump in average and 13-point jump in OBP would attest to. But let’s look at the more recent numbers and see what he did in 2013.
Is he trending down? Tending up? Just staying the same? I told you, it’s something of a complex question. So, let’s break this down.
– What I Like
There are two things in the 2013 stat-line that jump right out at me.
- Games Played
Andrus has never played fewer than 145 games in a season. Actually, since 2011, he’s played 150 games or more every season. I’ll never say that he’s the kind of player that the aforementioned Reyes, Tulo and Hanley are. But if you want to know why he shows up better than them on the player rater, that’s a big reason. They missed time in 2013. Reyes and Tulo seem to miss time every year. Andrus hasn’t had those issues.
At a position like shortstop, there isn’t exactly a lot of depth on the waiver wire. So, if you draft a guy that you know will miss about 40 games, you know that you’re going to be hanging on by a thread at that position for about 40 games. You can probably survive that if the rest of your team stays healthy. But what do you do if someone else gets hurt in that time? All of a sudden, things look a lot more bleak as you’re scrambling to stay above water. With Elvis, who’s only just turned 25, you know you’ll get a full slate, even if it’s not at the rate that one of the elite guys will give you.
- Stolen Bases
With Josh Hamilton gone and Nelson Cruz missing the team’s final 50 games, Andrus really seemed to take it upon himself to create runs. The 42 steals doubled what he did in 2012, when the Rangers had a more powerful heart of the lineup. As a result, he scored more runs despite playing in slightly fewer games, without as many at-bats or plate appearances.
But it’s not just that stolen bases lead to runs. You don’t even need to get that in depth. One player stealing 42 bases gets you well on your way to a good team stolen base total. Makes sense, doesn’t it? What’s that? You want numbers? Gladly!
Let’s take a look at my most competitive roto league, which uses catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, right field, and two utility spots. It’s a 12-team league and the winning team in 2013 averaged a little less than third place in every category. To get to third place in steals in that league, you’d 139 swipes. If one player is taking 42, you need 97 steals from the rest of your nine players. That’s an average of basically 10 steals per man.
If you get 20 steals from your top guy, you need 13 per guy to get to that mark. Now, consider that your catcher likely won’t steal any, so it’s really more in the 14-15 range. Your catcher is no more likely to steal bases with Elvis on the team than without him, but having 40+ to basically count on puts you well ahead of the curve in that department.
Also, remember that while he possesses very little power, Andrus hit .286 in 2012 and .279 the year before. So, he’s not a major drain in that category, either, although it would be nice if we could depend a little more on .275 or above.
–What I Don’t Like
It’s actually rather simple. Even at the shortstop position, it’s hard to find a truly valuable fantasy player who’s never batted .300, or hit 10 home runs. The bottom line is that if you’re not getting a lot of base hits or putting balls over the wall, you’re not going to be driving in any runs, either.
Andrus has never been that kind of player. So, when you take on a guy like Andrus, you’re really only getting runs and steals, with the possibility of a decent batting average. On that note, it’s true that Andrus hit .279 in 2011 and .286 in 2012, hitting .283 over the course of those two seasons. Not bad, but those are also the only times that he went above .275, and he’s a .274 career hitter.
Despite his high 2013 mark on the player rater, I can’t help but wonder if Andrus is a better real baseball player than a fantasy guy. He had 17 sacrifice bunts in 2010 and 2012, with 16 in 2011 and 2013, leading the American League in 2010, 2012, and 2013. The problem is that that doesn’t really help your fantasy team that much.
–Early Look Ahead at 2014
The drop in average scares me. Last season he was going somewhere in the high-80′s to low 90′s range in ESPN snake drafts, and I’m guessing he’ll be even higher this year. Not a bad player, but that just seems high to me, especially since I think he’ll be going even higher this year.
I’m going to go ahead and pick my own “What I Like” scenario apart. Yes, Andrus puts you ahead of the game if he steals 21 bases, but steals are the easiest offensive category to find late in the drafts and in free agency. On top of that, 42 steals is great, but the 21 he stole in 2012 weren’t exactly spectacular, even if his average was a little better.
Right now, I’m saying that you should ignore Elvis Andrus in your drafts until after the 100th pick. Take better, more reliable overall players without worrying about where they play, even if it means you don’t get a great shortstop. Once you get to 100 or so, then get him on your team, assuming you don’t have another shortstop.