I’m trying to see if even the hate I’m about to receive is bigger in Texas. Let me get this one out of the way first that should be obvious to everyone — if you think Elvis Andrus is hitting 20 HR in a season again you are a fool on a fool’s journey. In his previous 8 major league season he averaged 4.375 HRs. His career HR/FB rate going into 2017 was 5.1%. He blew that away with an 11.6% mark in 2017. Marcus Semien on the other hand has a 27 HR season already under his belt in 2016 and would’ve reached 20 HR again in 2017 if it wasn’t for missing 81 games with a broken wrist at the beginning of the season. Wrist injuries normally should make you nervous, but Semien returned in July and is now a full year removed from the injury. Semien has legit 20+ HR power after hitting over 20 in three of his four seasons before 2017.
In 2017 Andrus finally notched his first 100 run season. This is especially impressive considering Andrus had his highest strikeout rate and lowest walk rate of his career. However, with a consistent contact rate in the 85% range and a BABIP above .325 for back-to-back seasons I think it is a safe bet for Andrus to score 85+ runs again. Early in his career he was averaging around 90 runs per season, but over the past three seasons he actually averaged only 72 runs. He’ll be penciled into the #2 slot in the Rangers line-up in front of Nomar Mazara (.301 AVG RISP in 2017,) Adrian Beltre (.275 AVG RISP career) and Joey Gallo (.897 OPS RISP in 2017.) Semien’s highest career run total was 72 in his best season in 2016. An impressive number when you consider he batted in the bottom 3rd of the line-up in 104 games that season. Roster Resource has Semien penciled in to bat leadoff for the Athletics so 85+ runs isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him. Behind him he’ll have Jed Lowrie who surprisingly stayed healthy in 2017 and hit .297 with RISP, Matt Joyce/Brandon Moss (who were admittedly turds with RISP in 2017) and Khris Davis who drove in 57 RBI with RISP last year.
The stolen base edge goes to Elvis Andrus. His 40+ SB potential from 2013 is clearly gone, but you can safely pencil in 25 SB from Andrus. He’ll be turning 30 towards the end of the season so you have to start wondering when the speed will slip away from him — but for 2017 25 SBs should be a lock. However, don’t overlook that Andrus lead the league in being caught stealing in 2017. Just something to keep an eye on. While Semien did steal 24 bases as a minor leaguer in 2013, that hasn’t fully manifested itself in the big leagues yet. Semien topped out at 12 SBs last season — his career high. With a healthy season and hitting at the top of the Athletics lineup I could see Semien swiping 15 bases. But unfortunately that’s his SB ceiling since we all know how much Billy Beane loves stolen base attempts. For comparison sake, Oakland had the third fewest stolen base attempts in 2017 while Texas had the fourth most.
If Semien was hitting a spot or two lower in the Athletics lineup I could see him being a good source of RBI for your team. However, the three guys batting 7, 8 and 9 for Oakland aren’t even worth mentioning so don’t make me? Okay? Fine. Its Boog Powell, Matt Chapman and whatever sucker they run out there at catcher. Maybe it’s me. Who knows? I was our back-up catcher’s back-up catcher in 9th grade. Andrus on the other hand, could actually have a lot of RBI opportunities provided to him. Batting 2nd behind on-base-percentage league darling Shin-Soo Choo (career: .378 OBP,) Delino DeShields (.347 OBP in 2017) and Willie Calhoun (.348 OBP in 333 minor league games) I think Andrus is a safe bet for 75+ RBI again in 2018.
The past two seasons Andrus has really turned around his batting average. After being about a .270 hitter in his first 6 seasons, Andrus has a .299 batting average in his last two years. As I mentioned above, Andrus’s declining walk rate and rising strikeout rate are cause for concern, but Steamer has him projected for a .280 average which I think sounds about right. In batting average leagues Andrus is the better player as Semien is a career .246 hitter. However, if Semien can maintain his 9.0+% BB% his .320 ZiPS OBP projection compares very favorably to Andrus’s .327 projection.
Alright here we go — if you’ve read my first three ‘Draft This, Not That’ articles you know this paragraph is the main event! Elvis Andrus’s average draft position on Fantrax: 65. Marcus Semien….250. A difference of a whopping 185 picks! Andrus is being drafted in about the 5th round in 12-team leagues which is paying for a career year in which he more than doubled his career high in HR, had his career high in K% and career low in BB%, and was caught stealing in 29% of his attempts. While I agree that Andrus is objectively the superior player, you can smartly pick a player around pick #65 that will contribute to your team more than Andrus who can make up for the slight statistical differences. Here are some other players going around pick #65 you could draft instead of Andrus: Khris Davis (65), Aaron Nola (66), Wil Myers (66), Shohei Ohtani (68), or Tommy Pham (69.) For comparison sake, here is going around pick #250: Tanner Roark (251), J.A. Happ (252) and Fernando Rodney (257.) Friends don’t let friends draft Fernando Rodney.
Here are my projections for the pair showcasing why the drop off between the two shouldn’t be as steep as 185 picks:
- Andrus: (85-90 runs, 8-12 HR, 70-75 RBI, 20-25 SB, .275-.290 AVG/.320-.335 OBP)
- Semien: (75-80 runs, 20-25 HR, 65-70 RBI, 10-15 SB, .245-.255 AVG/.315-.330 OBP)
About 10 runs lost, about 12 HR gained, 5 RBI lost, 10 SB lost and .035 AVG/.005 OBP points lost.
Really not 185 picks of difference.