Is there something about nine-digit contract extensions that causes players to forget who they are?
That’s a question that the Texas Rangers are almost certainly wrestling with these days, considering the struggles of shortstop Elvis Andrus. The team had made their choice — they’d locked down the infield core they knew by signing Ian Kinsler and Andrus to long-term deals, seemingly making top prospect Jurickson Profar the odd man out to be used as trade bait.
So much for best laid plans, right?
While Profar is thus far impressing in his rookie season as a utility man of sorts, Andrus has been doing anything but, carrying a brutal .238/.293/.283 triple slash into play on Thursday that makes him a barely above replacement level player (0.2 fWAR) despite his elite speed (16 steals).
Those numbers include a 1-for-22 stretch over his last five games, as he’s hit just .149/216/.164 over 75 PA in June. What’s even worst is that his wheels haven’t come into play because he just hasn’t gotten on base, having gone eight games now without swiping a bag.
There’s no other way to say it: Andrus is well on his way to his worst season as a professional ball player thus far — and time is not on his side to turn things around for 2013.
As you might expect, there are some underlying trends here, and much of them have to do with plate discipline.
The 24-year old (!) is still making contact at a high 86.1 percent rate, even if it is a career-low. The crux of problem, however, has to do with the fact that he’s swinging too much (41 percent in 2013, 38.9 career) and more importantly, he’s chasing outside pitches (25.2 percent in 2012 vs. 22.3 career).
That’s leading to a career-high 5.6 percent swinging strike rate, and is likely the culprit for his career-high 10.4 percent infield fly rate (6.1 career).
So before you look at his .281 BABIP and chalk it up to bad luck, there are some legitimate problem areas here that suggest real issues at the plate that he has yet to solve, even though he’s still perfectly able to put balls in play at the same rate. Will he be fine long-term? Sure. Should that make the Rangers any less concerned? Probably not.
Oh, and did I already mention that he’s owned $120 million through 2022?
There’s probably a good ‘Elvis has left the building’ joke in here somewhere, but as it turns out, the Rangers are still waiting for this Elvis to show up in the building in 2013.