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Monday, January 12, 2009
Who is Elvis Andrus?


After Elvis Andrus finished strong at Double-A this season, batting over .300 in each of the final three months, the Rangers are considering making their shortstop of the future the shortstop of the present.

Of course, the team already has a shortstop with five years to go on his contract, so they asked Michael Young if he would be willing to switch to third base, a move he is reluctant to make, considering he already switched from second to short for the team, and won his first Gold Glove last season. However, it would be a boon for fantasy owners, giving Young some extra position flexibility after the first week of the season if he agrees to the move.

What may happen to Young's production if he's traded? The career .300 hitter has hit .289 away from Arlington over the past three seasons, but slugged 70 points lower on the road, with two-thirds of his homers coming at home. His OPS could drop 100 points in a different park, depending on where he was moved. The average might hold up a bit, but the days of double-digit homers would be gone. Most of his fantasy value in recent years comes from anchoring your batting average with a high number of at-bats, and that part would likely remain mostly intact.

As for Andrus, I profiled him very extensively last June, illustrating that he was having success at Double-A despite being just 19, two years younger than any of his teammates. He had also just come off an Arizona Fall League campaign that saw him hit .353 against advanced pitching despite being the youngest player there as well.

At the time, Andrus was hitting .277 with 24 steals. He finished the year hitting .295 with 54 thefts, despite missing three weeks with a fractured finger on his throwing hand.

Andrus is often compared to a player who has mentored him in the past, Edgar Renteria, and that is the kind of offensive production fantasy owners should eventually expect. Andrus profiles as an above-average defender who can hit .290 with 10 to 15 homers and 30 or more stolen bases. Considering the relative lack of quality shortstop prospects in the upper levels of the minors compared to recent years, this situation bears watching closely, especially in keeper leagues.

In the short term, we need to temper expectations by noting that while Andrus' numbers were good last season, they came in the hitting-happy Texas League. He still needs to be a bit more disciplined at the plate but has shown a good aptitude for making adjustments, and his overall strength should improve as he matures. If he gets regular at-bats, if nothing else he can bring some steals to speed-starved fantasy players.

Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.