2020 Rebound Candidate: Elvis Andrus

Elvis Andrus
ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 30: Elvis Andrus #1 of the Texas Rangers breaks his bat on a ground out in the first inning of a baseball game agaisnt the Chicago White Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington on June 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

 

2020 rebound candidate: Elvis Andrus finished the 2019 season ranked within the top 10 MLB shortstops in R, H, RBI, and SB. That seems like a pretty good place to be, so why would he be a rebound candidate? Unlike the first rebound candidate in the series, Khris Davis, Andrus is not coming off of a career-worst year. Andrus is actually coming off a season in which he stole more bases than he has in the last five seasons.

He finished the year with a slash of .275/.313/.393, 12 HR, and 31 SB. His 12 home runs are actually the second-most of his career. Jon Daniels (GM/VP of Baseball Operations) of the Texas Rangers extended Andrus’ contract at the end of March 2013 to the tune of a guaranteed $131M over 10 years. Daniels made that guarantee because he knew that in Andrus’ prime, he would consistently put up 2017 like numbers.

The Breakout

Elvis Andrus had a breakout year in 2017 in a lot of ways. Before 2017, the most home runs he had ever hit in a year was eight, which was in 2016. Things were going well for Andrus. He had entered his prime, increased his OPS and home run totals in 2015 and again in 2016 while stealing around 25 bags per year. He was due to breakout. In 2017 he slashed .297/.337/.471 with 20 HR, 44 doubles, and 25 SB. This is exactly what Daniels and the Rangers knew they had in him when the extension was signed. Andrus was still fresh in his prime years at 28 so this was to be the first of many good seasons.

Andrus picked up right where he left off in 2018. By April 11th he was batting .347 with two home runs and five RBI when he took a pitch to the elbow and suffered a fractured elbow.

The Problem

Andrus had never really been injured before. He played an average of 153 games per year from 2009-2017. In 2018 he played in 97 games. Andrus ended the year with a slash line of .256/.308/.367, six HR, and five SB. Those stats are depressing for fans, for Elvis, and for the Rangers Organization. It is understandable that Andrus would be discouraged and depressed, perhaps even cynical. As expected, he was working extra hard and was anxious and ready to rock for the 2019 season. When the 2019 season started, Andrus was off to the races, starting in every game from opening day through May 15th. Elvis was batting .326 with six home runs and 26 RBI already.

During the game on May 15th, Andrus was running out a grounder in the seventh inning and came up limping. He was already three-for-three with two stolen bases on the day. That was too much running for one day because he mildly strained his hamstring and ended up on the IL. This is likely the point where his attitude changed a bit, and then settling for mediocrity started. Once a quiet team leader starts spiraling downward, he unknowingly takes people with him due to the example he sets. It is no surprise that Andrus, likely unknowingly, brought his double-play partner down with him a bit.

Andrus “Put On Notice”

Jon Daniels Put Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor “On Notice” in late August of 2019. The Rangers management was not happy with either of their performances. Neither player was meeting expectations on production, condition, or attitude. “We’ve been real clear with both guys,” Daniels said. “Their position with the club is different from what it’s been.” This conversation was described as “tough love,” but it was an ultimatum. “The message: If Elvis doesn’t come back in better shape, committed to the grind and ready to lead by example, and if Roogie doesn’t embrace Chris Woodward’s plan, there will be consequences.”

Acknowledgment

It is written that Odor merely went back to what has worked for him in the past rather than making fresh adjustments. Andrus is blamed for his role in encouraging that retreat. “One of Andrus’ biggest problems was the negative effect that he had on Odor,” people who follow the team have said. Once Adrian Beltre left baseball, Andrus became the one who was looked to as the leader of the club.

With an 11-year tenure on the Rangers, Andrus has been a member of the club longer than anyone else. He is already ranked #11 on the list of “All-Time Top 24 Players” in Rangers Franchise History, and he is only entering his age 31-year-old season. There are still a couple of prime seasons left, maybe three. His teammates look up to him and rightly so, but if you are not going to be an outspoken leader, you must lead by example.

Daniels said that both players “…were game to change some things,” based on “a better self-evaluation than in the past.” Regardless of whether that seems believable or not, both players had good Septembers, according to Daniels.

2020 Outlook

Elvis Andrus had his breakout season, then had an injury-destroyed season, followed by an up-and-down season. He seems poised for a 2020 rebound because of a few factors. There are three things that his breakout season and the two that followed have in common. Andrus worked hard in the offseasons and batted well over .300 in all three spring trainings. He also came out of the gates on fire in all three years.

The motivation of being challenged by Daniels definitely impacted Andrus in a positive way. This is evidenced by the “good September” that Jon Daniels described both Andrus and Odor of having. Also, Andrus was making good contact and batting over .300 this spring before the shutdown (.333). Finally, the Rangers are one of the five teams that could surprise this season.

If Andrus comes out of the gate on fire and sets a good example for the new additions to the club as well as the core group, then he can help turn some of those question marks into exclamation points—leading the Rangers into contention with his rebound. It is likely that Elvis Andrus will have a 2020 rebound as long as he remains healthy. Be cautiously optimistic and watch how he starts the season.

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Michael Gray is a graduate of UCLA with major studies in philosophy and minor studies in finance. He did his graduate studies at CSU in San Bernardino, California for his MBA. Michael was a standout athlete from early in his childhood, through his college football days. He played baseball from ages 6-18, and 3 varsity sports in high school: Football, in which he was awarded a full-ride scholarship; Wrestling, where he was the CiF Heavyweight Champion, and two events on the Track & Field team in which he was league champion, and remains in the record books to this day. Professionally, Michael continued his success in his 10 year Management Career, before settling in as Executive Vice-President/Private Equity Fund Manager at a West LA Commercial Investment firm. Michael still manages a small private fund through his own company, and works with Seniors in a nonprofit organization that he co-founded, but he now spends a lot of his time watching, reading, and writing about baseball--his first love.

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