Texas Rangers 2017 Positional Breakdown: Shortstop

The American League West features some of the best the game has to offer at shortstop. Can Elvis Andrus build off a career resurgence from 2016?

Shortstops have evolved. The days of good defense and below average offensive numbers are gone. Now we have some of the best all-around players in the sport at the position.

Young phenom Corey Seager won Rookie of the Year while finishing 3rd in MVP voting a season ago. Carlos Correa won the AL Rookie of the Year in 2015 and followed that up with a 4.9 WAR season in 2016.

Apr 10, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Hanser Alberto (left) reacts after he is unable to complete a pass to shortstop Elvis Andrus (right) to force out Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (center) during the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 10, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Hanser Alberto (left) reacts after he is unable to complete a pass to shortstop Elvis Andrus (right) to force out Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (center) during the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Addison Russell and Fransico Lindor are both 23-year old’s providing Gold Glove level defense and All-Star level offense. Two of the top-five prospects in all of baseball are shortstops. Both J.P. Crawford and Dansby Swanson show the potential to be superstars.

The AL West is crawling with elite shortstop talent. The Astros have Correa. The Angels have the slick fielding Andrelton Simmons. Coming off a trade and a career year, Jean Segura will start for the Mariners. Even the lowly Athletics have a 25+ home run threat in Marcus Semien. So what about the Texas Rangers?

Elvis Andrus

October 6, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) throws to first for the out against Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) in the second inning during game one of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

October 6, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus (1) throws to first for the out against Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar (11) in the second inning during game one of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Remember when people thought Elvis Andrus career was going to spiral out of control after the 2015 ALDS?  I do. Mainly because I was worried about the direction his career was heading.

Andrus posted a 1.3 WAR in 2014 and a 1.7 WAR in 2015 after signing a huge eight-year extension during the 2013 season. Both the lowest of his career. Many people began questioning John Daniel’s decision to extend Andrus until the 2022 season.

Andrus answered the criticism with a strong 2016. Before 2016 Andrus posted a positive offensive rating only once. Even then, his 2.1 rating in 2011 was still below average. He blew that 2.1 rating out of the water in 2016, posting a 9.9 rating.

His 112 wRC+ marked the first time in his career he posted a wRC+ over 100. We saw a surge of power from Andrus. The same guy who went 800+ plate appearances without a home run from 2009-2011.

Elvis set career high’s in both home runs and RBI with eight and 69 respectively. His .136 ISO rating was the first time since his 2009 rookie season where he posted over a .100 ISO. Is it irresponsible to expect Elvis to hit 20 home runs in 2017? Yes, but the elusive 10 home run mark is certainly a possibility.

Despite his career year at the plate, 2016 was Andrus worst year defensively. His -8.1 defensive rating marked the first time in his career he posted a negative defensive rating. Only four years removed from posting a 10.1 defensive rating, it’s possible 2016 was an anomaly.

Will Andrus continue to provide unexpected offense while rediscovering his Gold Glove caliber defense? With all the shortstop talent in the AL West, the Rangers need him to.

Hanser Alberto

May 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Hanser Alberto (2) drives in a run with a single during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

May 22, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Texas Rangers second baseman Hanser Alberto (2) drives in a run with a single during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Known as the guy who runs around the dugout and dumps Gatorade on unexpected interviewees. However, Hanser Alberto does have an important role on the team.

Alberto solidified himself as the go-to late-inning defensive replacement off the bench in 2016. While he moves all over the infield, Alberto is best utilized at shortstop.

Being ranked as high as 15 in the Rangers farm system, Alberto was always a prospect with an impressive glove and a well below average bat. His -34 wRC+ in 2016 proves that. Yes, that is a negative before the 34. I was also unaware that was possible.

What Alberto lacks offensively he makes up for in the field. He posted a 4.8 UZR in 59.1 innings at shortstop. This led to an absurd 83.2 UZR per 150 games played. It would have been nearly impossible to keep that pace up. But just in case you’re wondering, that would have been the best UZR ever posted by about 50.

Would Alberto be a Gold Glove candidate if he played everyday? It’s possible. However, given his prowess at the plate, or lack-there-of, Alberto is better used as a defensive replacement who occasionally starts.

Michael De Leon

Speaking of slick fielding shortstops who struggle at the plate. Michal De Leon is the 14th-ranked prospect in the Rangers system according to Pipeline.

At only 20-years young, 2017 will already be De Leon’s 4th full season in the Minor Leagues. Coming to the states in 2013, De Leon was one of the youngest players in Minor League history. De Leon even started a game for Double-A Frisco at 17-years old.

De Leon has the potential to be an everyday shortstop thanks in-part to his strong defensive ability. While he’ll have to battle the rest of the Rangers strong middle infield crop, his glove may give him an upper-hand.

However, don’t expect much from him offensively. His highest OPS in the minors was the .693 he put up this past season for High-A High Desert. De Leon did show vast improvement over his lackluster 2015 season. His nine home runs was a career high, seven higher than his previous career high. His .267 average was also an .052 point approvement over his 2015 .222 average.

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De Leon’s most redeemable quality is his glove. One of the best defenders in the entire system, he should continue to fly through the ranks. While he’s still a couple of years from being Major League ready, De Leon’s progress is something to keep an eye on in 2017.

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