The following is a transcript of a segment from this week's Fantasy411 podcast, hosted by MLB.com lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie and national editor Matthew Leach. To hear the rest of their relievers discussion, subscribe to the Fantasy411 podcast by clicking here.
Leach: We're right at the one-third mark of the season, and one of the big questions that underlies everything the deeper we get into the season is: What's real, what's kind of real, and what's not real? There aren't a lot of stone flukes left at this part of the season, but there are a lot of things we're not really sure of -- and that's what we're going to talk about.
So we start with somebody we're wondering how real that (performance) is, and that's Elvis Andrus. He has been really outstanding this year: .303 average with 32 RBIs, 14 steals and seven home runs. There is a lot to like here. That said, in some ways it's not that different from what he did last year. The batting average is right in line, the home runs are up some, but his slugging isn't up that much. So in some ways he's kind of doing what he's always done, and if you look at Andrus for the rest of the year -- which is really what we're doing at this point -- do you think he's the seven home runs and 14 steals in a third of the season guy? Or do you think he's probably for the rest of the year more what he's been in recent years -- or closer to what he's been in recent years?
Zinkie: Yeah, I do think for the last few years, Andrus has been a little underrated in fantasy as far as someone who can often hit for average and get a couple steals. I'm not really sold on the power. If someone told me he's going to hit seven more home runs this year, I would say, "Sure." But I wouldn't go any farther than that. I'm not thinking he'll have a 19- or 20-homer total at the end of this season. He's hitting high in the lineup, and he's one of those players who either needs to hit high or low. Now that he's high in the lineup, I could see him scoring 90 to 95 runs this year -- which makes him pretty valuable. Let's say he scores 90 runs and steals 30-35 bases. He's been settling as a mid-20s steal guy, but we've seen him get up there before. He's had a 42-steal season, he has three seasons in the 30s. I'm willing to take him as a 30- to 35-steal player and someone who could score 90 runs -- and someone who could legitimately hit. Maybe not .300, but .280 or .290.
Leach: So let's talk about his place among shortstops, and compare him to a couple guys who -- at least from a fantasy perspective -- it's safe to say have disappointed a bit this year. Xander Bogaerts is hitting for a higher average but fewer steals, fewer home runs, fewer RBIs and is right in line on the runs. Francisco Lindor is hitting .263 with more home runs but nowhere near the steals, and again right in line on the runs. If you're looking at trading and maybe cashing in on Andrus' hot start, would you rather have him than either of those guys? Where would you tier him with some of these other guys who we had at the beginning of the year as Tier 1 shortstops?
Zinkie: Yeah, I think I would still take the Tier 1 shortstops over him. I would definitely take Lindor over him. Even though the batting average has been low and his BABIP is low, he has been hitting more fly balls and his home run pace is way up. He might hit for a lower average this year but also hit 28 or 29 home runs. Now, he isn't stealing bases as much. But I think I would take those younger guys with their upside. I do think Bogaerts is an interesting comparable in that Bogaerts will probably hit for a higher average and maybe drive in more runs, but their runs scored will probably be pretty similar and Andrus will steal more bases. So I think I would take those other players just because their ceilings are higher than Andrus', but I wouldn't say someone was crazy if they said they would rather just have Andrus the rest of the way. What do you think?
Leach: I think it's a fair question, but here's what I would put to you: Andrus has seven home runs this year, and Bogaerts has two. Who are you taking for home runs between today and the end between those two guys?
Zinkie: I would still take Bogaerts. Would you do the same?
Leach: I agree. If I had one of the Tier 1 guys, I would not trade them straight up for Andrus. Now, if you wanted to sweeten it and said, "I want to cash in on this guy, we're viewing them very close, but there's some spare part that I could use that you don't have a use for," then I'd listen. Maybe we're talking an AL-only league where there's a piece I could use. But I'm not parting with any Tier 1 shortstop as we identified them at the beginning of the year for Andrus right now in a one-for-one deal.
Zinkie: That makes sense, and you're right. I think there are trade possibilities there where the Lindor owner says, "I believe in Andrus. I'll give you Lindor if you give me Andrus, and I could use some more starting pitching depth." I could get a useful starter, or like you said, maybe the Andrus owner wants to get out now and so you offer those one-for-ones and see if the other owner is a little frustrated with the low batting average from Lindor or the lack of power from Bogaerts.