We finish up the infield with a look at a young player making quite an impact.
Today's position: Shortstop
Everyone associated with the Rangers wondered how Elvis Andrus would respond in 2010 after posting impressive enough numbers in his rookie campaign to earn a runner-up showing in the AL rookie of the year balloting. That 2009 season was proof that the Rangers were right in promoting Andrus to the majors despite never having played in Triple-A. It showed that shifting Michael Young to third base to make room for Andrus made the team better. And maybe the most important part about allowing Andrus to start at short in 2009 was that he'd have a year under his belt for 2010 when the Rangers' front office felt it's truly competitive window was just opening.
Andrus responded with a solid season. In fact, outside of not hitting a single home run in 2010 (I lost a bet with a buddy on that and still can't believe he didn't hit one ball out of the park), Andrus' numbers between 2010 and 2009 were pretty similar at the plate except for one major category: walks. Andrus had 24 more walks in 2010 (yes, he had a lot more plate appearances, but he still walked on average more frequently). That patience was important in getting Andrus' speed on the bases. He stole over 30 bases for the second straight season.
As for his ability in the field, it's fun to watch. Manager Ron Washington stressed that Andrus needed to continue to focus on the routine plays and limit his mistakes and the youngster improved on that in 2010. He has incredible range at short and has the skill to save runs and take hits away. He's a regular on the Top Plays of the Day on SportsCenter.
In 2010, Andrus began the season as the No. 9 hitter with Julio Borbon getting an oppportunity in the leadoff spot. But that was switched three weeks into the season as Borbon struggled. Andrus stayed there the rest of the season. He had an up-and-down summer, hitting .270 in June, .216 in July, .296 in August and .160 in September. And he had some baserunning issues, something the coaching staff and Andrus worked hard to clean up.
But when it mattered most in the postseason, Andrus was ready. He hit .294 in the playoffs (despite tailing off in the World Series like most of the Rangers offense) with eight stolen bases (in nine attempts), three doubles and four RBIs. Andrus made a memorable sprint home in the first inning of Game 5 in the ALDS. He singled, stole second and then scoured on Josh Hamilton's ground ball, setting the tempo on an aggressive baserunning game for the Rangers that helped them manufacture some runs for Cliff Lee in the victory.
Andrus is only 22 and clearly has a bright future. He understands he still has some maturing to do within the game and he's very coachable. He should only get better and better. The question the Rangers must ponder is when to give him a long-term deal so that he stays at shortstop for the Rangers for a long time.