The Texas Rangers are in desperate need of a bounce back from Elvis Andrus in the 2020 season. Can the veteran shortstop rebound?
For Texas Rangers’ shortstop Elvis Andrus, the past couple of seasons have been up and down without tons of meaningful production being seen. In fairness, this somewhat reflects the Rangers as a team. Solid stats in a few categories but the value has been under the threshold needed to be a competitive team. For Andrus though, 2020 represents a chance to rebound and return to his pre-2018 form that regularly saw him named among the better shortstops in Major League Baseball.
Last season was a tough year for Andrus at the plate. His .275 average aside, he managed just a .707 OPS and saw his walk rate at a career low 5.2%. His finished the year with 12 home runs, the second highest total of his career but his extra base hits were down as a whole with his doubles total the lowest it’s been for a full season since 2013. He still posted solid defensive numbers finishing the year with a 2.2 UZR/150 but as a whole, he impacted the team more to the extent of a role player rather than an everyday starter.
Andrus’ fWAR for the 2019 campaign was just a 1.4 in 147 games. For the Rangers as they were last season, that was the fifth highest total on the team. But Texas is adamant on being a competitive team in 2020 and need numerous players to take a step forward this season. In FanGraphs measurements, an fWAR of 1.0 to 2.0 is representative of a role player. So the question for Andrus is can he make the return to the productivity he saw in 2017 when he finished the year with a 105 wRC+ and a 3.9 fWAR, or is this production the new norm for the 31-year old.
Projections Are Not On Elvis’ Side
Statistical projections are not on the side of Elvis with both Steamer and ZiPS suggesting a 2020 season in line with the production from last year. Andrus is a player that both projection metrics are fairly consistent on with Steamer projecting a slash line of .268/.319/.405/.724 and ZiPS projecting him at .275/.321/.406/.726. Both give Elvis a slight bump in slugging percentage from last season but with such a close correlation to the numbers posted by Andrus last season, it suggests the projections feel that we’re seeing what Elvis is as a player and not just a temporary downturn.
When evaluating what Andrus can bring to the table next season, the question is whether you think he has hit a career plateau or is he still the player we’ve seen in season past. A generous and perhaps hopeful take is that he falls somewhere in the middle. For Andrus to make the jump back to a 3-4 win player, it would take quite a turnaround. But a 1-2 win season also feels like it would be a failure to hit expectations, not just maintaining the status quo. If Elvis can jump to a 2.0-plus WAR player in 2020, he can return to his status as an everyday starter level producer. That would still be relatively low production considering he has the second highest salary on the team, but would at least be justifiable for a semi-competitive team’s starting shortstop.
One element that could play in Elvis’ favor is that the Rangers offense should be somewhat better as a whole in 2020. Joey Gallo looks set to be back and playing a full season as does Willie Calhoun who is planning to be ready for the delayed Opening Day. The additions of Todd Frazier and Robinson Chirinos could go a long way towards upping Texas’ production as well which generally is a benefit to everybody at the plate. We could see Elvis also drop lower in the lineup with opportunities to put Danny Santana, Calhoun and Gallo near the top of the order alongside Shin-Soo Choo. There should be some reduced pressure on Andrus to be a main offensive catalyst for Texas which could let him open up his swing a bit and return to the all around hitter he has been in years past.