DALLAS — Shortstop is a position the Texas Rangers haven’t had to worry about for a full decade now.
As the team looks to open the gates to Globe Life Field for the first time, they still won’t have to worry about shortstop. The position has been manned very steadily since 2009. But does the shortstop have something to worry about?
● Opening Day: Elvis Andrus
● Through the season: Logan Forsythe, Danny Santana
Elvis Andrus rolled into his age-30 season with something of a chip on his shoulder. Coming off of a shortened year – his first season having spent any time on the injured list – Andrus was ready to attempt a repeat of his 2017 season. 2017 was arguably Andrus’ best all-around year, especially at the plate.
Andrus slashed .297/.337/.471 that summer, hit the 20 home-run mark for the first time (and that was by a long shot), scored 100 runs, had a career high in plate appearances and hits, and was one of the Rangers’ most consistent players in a year that otherwise turned sour.
After the injuries robbed him of a chance to build off his ‘17 campaign, Andrus had a very good 2019 for a shortstop. Slashing .275/.313/.393 with 12 homers and his first 30+ stolen base season (31) in five years should have been marked as a success for the grizzled young veteran. But it wasn’t a return to his peak.
Part of the mild disappointment was an approach to see the return of the Elvis Andrus of old – getting on base, getting hits, being a nuisance. Perhaps that was part of Andrus working on returning to full form following a year in which he sustained a broken arm. Part of it, too, was getting used to first-year manager Chris Woodward’s more analytic approach, or finding new ways to implement the data already obtained.
Probably one of the best signs coming out of 2019 was that the broken arm was not going to be a catalyst to a more injury-prone, older player. The broken arm – the result of a hit-by-pitch in early 2018 – was a fluke, a poorly-timed incident. Andrus still played in 147 games and racked up 600 plate appearances. He’s still one of the most stalwart and consistent players this franchise will probably ever see. Now, though, it’s probably time for the proverbial reins to be cut.
● Projected Opening Day: Elvis Andrus
● Depth: Danny Santana, Isiah Kiner-Falefa
When you average 148 games per season for more than a decade, you earn the right to be the top dog at your position without the need for much depth behind you. Such is the case with Elvis Andrus.
In an acknowledgement, however, of the passing of time, the now 31-year old has been working on maintaining his figure, having lost around 15 pounds, according to the Star-Telegram. The idea is to compensate for his age by making himself lighter and quicker on his feet.
Recall that before the 2017 season, Andrus bulked up by adding more muscle mass, which resulted in the power surge. Presumably, the weight drop doesn’t come with a loss in muscle; Andrus is looking to cause more damage with his contact, instead of settling for singles.
Andrus and the Rangers are hoping that he can still be a top-of-the-order table setter – whether that’s leading off or in the 2-hole is largely dependent on who else is playing that day, but there was data provided to the shortstop that suggests he could actually be more of a power threat at the plate with a little work. He proved it was a possible outcome in 2017.
One wouldn’t necessarily think that Andrus – as entrenched as they come – has a definitive chip on his shoulder coming into 2020, but there is certainly something to prove, and he hasn’t been resting on his laurels this winter.
At a salary of just over $15 million, he is probably going to outperform the dollar amount on his contract without doing too much extra. The idea, though, is that Andrus has the proven potential to make the contract look like an absolute steal for the Rangers.
2020 is going to be a year about fulfilling that potential, realizing how much Elvis Andrus can still do, and announcing that he still has the remainder of his career as a Ranger to be one of the most important presences in the field and in the lineup.
Do you think Elvis Andrus will have a return to form year for the Rangers in 2020? Share your thoughts on Daddy Shark himself with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.