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Monday, February 25, 2013
Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler

By Richard Durrett


Editor's Note: You choose the player that will have the better year of the two featured in this blog series. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.

Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler

A reminder: This assignment is to pick the player you feel will have the best overall season. It's Karabell's job to pick the player he feels has the best overall fantasy value. The two may not match up.

And I suspect this could be an example of that since Andrus isn't a power-hitting shortstop. Andrus is coming off one of his best seasons as a professional. He hit .286 with three homers and 62 RBIs. The average and RBIs were his highest in four seasons and he played in a career-best 158 games. Andrus had 21 stolen bases, which tied for the team high but was down considerably (15 fewer) than the previous season. His .349 on-base percentage was tops for his career so far.

Andrus was also a finalist for the Gold Glove at short, making the difficult plays look easy. He did a better job on the routine plays too, rewcording 16 errors in 663 total chances. The errors were the tied for the fewest in his career. His UZR of 8.8 was the fourth-highest among AL shortstops and his WAR, which takes into account the player's overall game, was 4.2, second only to Ben Zobrist among AL shortstops.

Andrus is just 24 and should be entering the prime of his career. He's got two more years left on his contract and played winter ball to help get ready for the World Baseball Classic. As usual, he's highly-motivated to have a big 2013.

PODCAST
There are a couple misconceptions floating around about the Texas Rangers. Richard Durrett says if Ian Kinsler isn't switching positions, it's on the ball club, not Kinsler. Durrett also says we need to let things play out with Jurickson Profar.

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Kinsler is hoping to rebound from a struggling 2012 campaign. He hit .256, nearly identical to his average in 2011, but he couldn't match his homer or stolen base output. Kinsler was a 30-30 player in 2011, mashing 32 home runs and stealing 30 bases. He hit 19 homers in 2012 and stole 21 bases. His on-base percentage was .326, a career-low and not what you'd expect to see from a leadoff hitter.

But there's a difference for Kinsler this spring: He's 100 percent healthy. Any lingering ankle issues are gone and he's worked this offseason on his swing and getting to know new hitting coach Dave Magadan. Kinsler had 18 errors in 2012, tying his career high (despite 70 fewer chances than 2011, when he had 11 errors). So he's looking to improve his overall game.

My bet is that Kinsler does bounce back with a solid season, but I'll still take Andrus in this duel. Remember, it's not about the better fantasy player. For what Andrus does on defense, his ability to be versatile in the No. 2 spot and the fact that I think he'll be a terror on the bases, I'm saying that Andrus will have the better overall year. But it will be close. Kinsler will see his batting average, homers and OBP go up this season too.

Here's Karabell's take:
This one is simple. Even if we grant the possibility that Andrus returns to serious stolen base numbers, as he proved as recently as 2011, he hasn’t shown a lick of power. Kinsler has power. In fact, Kinsler, whose only fantasy baseball issue is batting average, has a pair of 30/30 seasons to his credit and at the worst should be expected to flirt with 20/20 again. A few years ago I thought Andrus would develop power, and while he raised his slugging percentage in 2012, thanks to doubles and triples, it didn’t help fantasy owners much. Still, this remains a top-100 player who should again top 30 steals and help in batting average and runs scored, and there’s nothing wrong with Andrus as your starting shortstop.

Kinsler, however, is more of an overall fantasy building block. Miss out on Andrus and you can still find stolen bases later. Kinsler types delivering power and speed from middle infield are indeed rare. Like Andrus and quite a few other Rangers, the overall numbers are depressed from a disappointing second half, so there remains upside here. Ultimately, now that he’s shed his injury prone status and remains productive into his 30s, the case can easily be made for Kinsler as a top-25 overall player, and that’s considerably better than what Andrus’ upside appears to be.

OK. Now your turn. Pick 1: Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler?