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If You Like Elvis Andrus, Try Derek Jeter

One gratifying aspect of playing fantasy baseball is drafting a player heading into a breakout season.  It's one reason Brett Lawrie is being drafted in the fifth round and Matt Moore in the ninth.  Unlike those two, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has 443 big league games under his belt, and he's only 23 years old.  However, I still think Andrus is being drafted in the fourth round (43.75 ADP on Mock Draft Central) because of what he might do rather than what he has done.

Andrus is one of the game's best shortstops, but his value comes from defense as well as the ability to get on base pretty well for his position.  We're looking through the lens of a standard 5x5 league here at RotoAuthority, so we only care about Andrus' batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs scored, and stolen bases.   He excels in runs and steals, and shouldn't hurt you on batting average (.271 career).  There's no reason to expect him to develop power, so the speculating seems to be based on potential for a higher average or an increase from last year's 96 runs or 37 steals.

That speculation is valid, but also risky for such an early pick.  As Baseball HQ has noted, Andrus had a second-half uptick in his walk and contract rates, which if maintained might lead to a .290-.300 average.  The run total is fairly unpredictable, but it's easy to envision five extra swipes, especially if he's on base a bit more.  Give Andrus a .295 average, 95 runs, and 40 steals, and I'm sold - he's easily the fourth-best shortstop, and is flirting with Jose Reyes value.

It seems just as likely to me, however, that Andrus' second half wasn't a sign of anything, and he continues along at his current level.  Peg him for .276-4-53-88-35 in 583 ABs - completely reasonable - and you've got a shortstop who offers little advantage over those taken much later, including Derek Jeter, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jimmy Rollins.

As a 37-year-old, Jeter is the most boring of those three, and despite his fame he's being drafted in the 11th round on average.  Boring can help win fantasy leagues.  Last year a calf strain cost Jeter some June ABs, leading to his lowest total in a long time at 546.  He'd been at 630+ in each of the two previous seasons, so a 615 projection isn't crazy for 2012.  That comes out to a .287-9-65-90-17 line, which seems conservative in runs and average.  This projection gives Jeter a $9.19 value, only $1.34 below the aforementioned Andrus line.

I understand the appeal of Andrus -- he's exciting, and who's to say he doesn't hit .310 with 50 steals and 110 runs?  The bottom line is that there's too much hoping going on for a player who is 44th off the board, and as early as 26th in some leagues.  In our recent RotoAuthority mock draft, Tom Warman did not have to reach for Andrus, and I respect the pick in the sixth round.  As you might expect, I was the one taking Jeter, and I actually did reach by grabbing him in the ninth round.  That's a bit misleading, because due to my draft position, I wouldn't go again for 21 more picks.

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