Spin Doctors: Elvis Andrus vs. Ian Desmond

Ugh. The fact that we're even having this discussion, that these two rank as top-10 shortstops, is an indictment of the position. Just pay the scarcity tax on Alexei Ramirez(notes), fantasy owner, or this is what you get. There's the real takeaway from this particular Spin Doctors.

In any case, today we're discussing Elvis Andrus(notes) and Ian Desmond(notes), and death is not an option. Nor is Stephen Drew(notes) or Rafael Furcal(notes) or Starlin Castro(notes), so forget that bunch. Let's play the feud…

Behrens begins: If you're going to force me to make a choice between this pair — and, in accordance with Spin Doctors rules, ADP isn't a factor — then I'll take the guy who has a chance to someday be great in a category or two. That's Andrus, clearly. Perhaps he disappointed you in 2010, but recall that he just turned 22 in August. When evaluating young players and pricing upside, age-relative-to-level is key. Andrus is younger than 11 of the 16 prospects discussed in this feature, yet he's already played two full major league seasons. It's impressive that he could tread water at the highest level, considering his age.

Andrus has swiped over 30 bases in back-to-back seasons (eight more in the post-season), and he'll do his hitting in one of baseball's best lineups, often at the top of the order. Last year he took a 40-steal pace and a .280 average into the break, but hamstring troubles knocked him off stride in September. Andrus stole 54 bases at Double-A at age 19, so he obviously has the potential to be elite in the category. With his contact skills, speed, patience, and batted-ball rates (20.5 line drive percentage, 58.4 ground ball percentage), he looks like an eventual .300 hitter.

Desmond is … well, adequate. And the forecast calls for continued adequacy. He never displayed much power in the minors (.388 SLG) and doesn't hit the ball in the air too often, so forget 20 homers. Think 10-14. And his team context is completely uninteresting; he won't be an asset in runs or RBIs. If you can somehow see upside in the 25-year-old Desmond but not in the 22-year-old Andrus, then you're beyond help.

Evans responds: Poll 10 random owners who wins this debate, and nine would emphatically answer Andrus. After all, the fantasy sweetheart plays for the loaded Rangers and possesses a superb pedigree. Though true, Desmond is the more desirable fantasy commodity and better value.

Andrus, like New Year’s Eve, the Doors and Fergie (Dude looks like a lady), is terribly overrated. After an excellent rookie season, most anticipated a stellar follow-up. Instead, investors didn’t earn a lucrative return as Elvis batted .265 with 88 runs, 32 steals and a glaring donut in homers. Because of the position’s poor depth, Andrus still managed a top-10 finish, but when compared to the entire field, he was only the 108th-most valuable commodity according to Baseball Monster.

Entering his third season, most fanalysts expect Andrus to grow significantly. However, with a Pierre-like 2.77 GB/FB and .067 ISO in his brief career, single-digit homers are a certainty. More worrisome, Ron Washington has designs of removing Elvis from the leadoff spot, a move which would sap his runs-scoring production.

Desmond, on the other hand, is a more well-rounded asset who should build on his admirable 2010. Determined to avoid a sophomore slump, he worked hard this offseason to improve his flexibility and mental conditioning. If the program pays off, he will easily surpass last season’s .269-10-65-59-17 line, especially batting in front of Ryan Zimmerman(notes). He’s a legit 20-20 darkhorse. Natty light he is not. Most damning for Behrens, he’s a friggin’ steal, going roughly 125 picks after Andrus (197.77 ADP).

By year’s end, Desmond will be the more treasured shortstop.



Photos via US Presswire