Fantasy Throwdon: Elvis Andrus vs. Alcides Escobar: Which SS Offers Better ’13 Value?

This is an interesting debate for fantasy owners. Most people are going to pick Andrus, almost by default, given what he has done over the course of his career. However, if we dive into the numbers is it really that easy? Can we really just say that Andrus is the more established player and therefore the better selection for the upcoming season?

It is never smart to be so rash, so let’s dive in and see if we can get to the bottom of this potential debate:

Home Runs/Runs Batted In:
Let’s get this out of the way early, neither of them offer enough to give an advantage. Both players have 14 career home runs, though Andrus has done it in more at bats (2,284 to Escobar’s 1,788). For the record Escobar’s .390 SLG in 2012 was higher than anything Andrus has done throughout his career. That said, if I am drafting either of these two it isn’t for their home run or RBI potential, so let’s just ignore these two categories.

Stolen Bases:
Elvis Andrus – 21 SB out of 31 attempts in 2012
He as stolen as many as 37 bases in a season, but had just 21 in 2012 and never seems capable of continuing it over a full season.  Just look at the breakdown over his four year career:

  • 2009 – 16/17
  • 2010 – 23/9
  • 2011 – 26/11
  • 2012 – 16/5

That’s three straight seasons that have see his stolen bases nearly dry up after the All-Star Break. Throw in being caught at least 10 times each of the past three years and there are definitely a lot of questions. Have the Rangers reined him in to try and keep him fresh later in the year? Will he ever learn to be more efficient?

The questions are numerous and we simply don’t have an answer.  The fact is, he just doesn’t seem capable of keeping the SB total going throughout the season.

Alcides Escobar – 35 SB in 40 attempts in 2012
It has taken him some time to find his footing in the Major Leagues, but he has grown by leaps and bounds since landing in Kansas City. He had 26 SB in 2011 and set a career high with 35 last season. Not only that, he was efficient (5 caught stealing) and was better in the second half (22 SB).

Has the 25-year old (he will turn 26 in December) finally figured it out? You have to like what we have seen and the indications do make us believe he has. At the least he is Andrus’ equal in SB and, if hte second half is any indication, he should have the potential to top 40 in 2013. At this point, we can’t say the same thing for Andrus.

Average:
Elvis Andrus – .286 in 2012
It was a career high average for Andrus, who continued to make good contact (13.5% strikeout rate vs. a career mark of 13.2%) and hit the ball with authority (21.9% line drive rate vs. a career mark of 21..6%).  That only leaves his BABIP and all know he has the speed and there is nothing unrealistic in his .332.  Granted, it was also a career high but there is no reason to think that he couldn’t replicate it.

Alcides Escobar – .293 in 2012
His average had always been a detriment, hitting .235 and .254 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, but he appeared to put things together last year.  Yes, his strikeout rate increased to 15.4% (he had been at 12.2% in ’11), but he also showed an ability to make better contact:

  • 2011 – 18.1% line drive rate
  • 2012 – 23.0% line drive rate

The line drive rate was also consistent, being at 23.8% or better in four months (the other two were 18.9% and 20.0%).  That type of ability led to a .344 BABIP, a number he could easily maintain given his speed.  In fact, he was never below .302 and that was the only month he was below .320.

There’s no reason to think that he can’t, at the least, match Andrus in the average department.  If he can get his strikeout rate back down to his 2011 rate he will have the potential to hit .300+.

I would consider both players to be on even ground, though it wouldn’t surprise me if either player outperformed the other.

Runs Scored:
Elvis Andrus – 85 runs scored in 2012
Primarily hitting second does not necessarily endear itself to scoring a significant number of runs (since he is often going to be pushing runners along).  He’s scored 88, 96 and 85 the past three seasons, so he certainly isn’t a detriment and he has a high-powered offense behind him…

I don’t want to guarantee that is going to happen, actually.  With Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings there are certainly going to be rumors that Andrus is going to be traded at some point this offseason.  Depending on where he lands (if dealt) will ultimately impact his potential in the runs scored department, but unless he’s hitting leadoff at this point we have to expect him somewhere in the 85-95 range (given his average and ability to draw walks).

Alcides Escobar – 68 runs scored in 2012
This is an interesting thing to try and project because Escobar spent a lot of time hitting towards the bottom of the order (240 AB hitting sixth through eighth).  In the time that he spent hitting second (360 AB), he scored 40 runs.  Granted, that’s not great, but the fact that he was hitting that high in the order gives him promise going forward.

The Royals do have a lot of potential in the middle of their order with Billy Butler and Alex Gordon (though he could be forced into the leadoff spot).  They got poor performances from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, among others (even Gordon didn’t produce at times), but it would be fair to assume that they are going to get bounce back performances.

With a stronger middle of the lineup, Escobar should be in a similar situation to Andrus.  Is he going to score 90+?  Probably not, but you would think 80-85 is realistic.  It would be nice if he drew more walks, getting him on base even more, though it’s not a huge detriment.

The advantage goes to Andrus in Texas, but I don’t think the difference is going to be the same as it has been in prior years and it is not likely going to be enough to push us in one direction.

Conclusion
The masses are going to say that Andrus has the advantage.  It is nearly a lock that he is drafted ahead of Escobar come draft day, and probably significantly so.  The line-up he is in and his track record will skew people that way.

Call me crazy, but I would actually prefer to own Escobar.  You could argue that he outperformed Andrus in 2012 and there is no reason to think that he isn’t going to do so again.  He has long had significant promise and has finally proven that he can realize it.  With the potential to hit .300 with 40+ SB and a vast improvement in runs, what’s not to like?

Considering where the two will likely be going in drafts, I definitely wouldn’t have a problem bypassing Andrus and selecting Escobar.  In fact, call me crazy but with the potential edge in SB (and all other categories being close) I think Escobar could ultimately be ranked ahead of Andrus, though the two will be extremely close.

When comparing the two, I’m taking Escobar.

What are your thoughts?  Which of these two do you think has the edge?  Why?

Make sure to check out the rest of our extremely early 2013 rankings:

Top 5 Prospects For 2012 Review: Cincinnati Reds
Breakout or Bust: Will Howie Kendrick Finally Reach Expectations Or Will He Be A 2013 Non-Factor?

One comment

  1. David says:

    I agree 100%, my strategy on draft day will be the same.

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