Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 3/10/12
The battle for west supremacy this year between Texas and Los Angeles also carries over to the shortstop position. Plenty of teams would take either Elvis Andrus or Erick Aybar at short and be very happy. Both players are in the prime of their career and both are heading into their fourth season as a starter at short in the big leagues. The biggest difference between the two is Andrus is four years younger and has more upside. He's also playing for a better offensive team. Here's a ranking of the shortstops in the West. 1. Texas If it weren't for a slow start in the field in 2011, Elvis Andrus would have been an All-Star for the second time in his career. Andrus made a career high 25 errors but along with Adrian Beltre at third gave the Rangers more range on the left side of the infield than any other team in the American League. He also put together his best offensive season and he's just 22. Now bigger and stronger than he was as a 20-year old rookie, Andrus had a career-high 60 RBI and batted a career-best .279 and posted an on-base percentage of .347. He also went from zero home runs in 2010 to six last season. He'll bat second for the Rangers this year, hitting in between Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton. That should allow Andrus to do a lot of things at the plate, driving in Kinsler and scoring ahead of Hamilton. Texas was wise to lock up Andrus for the next three years, buying out all of his arbitration years for just over 14 million. A 40 steal, 100-run season isn't out of the question nor is a Gold Glove in 2012. Team production in 2011: .273 average, 6 home runs, 61 RBI, .693 OPS Expected production in 2012: .280 average, 10 home runs, 70 RBI, .725 OPS 2. Los Angeles In three years as the starting shortstop for the Angels, Erick Aybar has settled in nicely in the batting order and in the field. The biggest improvement Aybar made in 2011 was in the field as he committed just 13 errors and won his first Gold Glove. Aybar, who didn't play in more than 100 games before 2008, has played in at least 137 in each of the last three years and has found his rhythm at the plate. He set career highs in doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and stolen bases last season. He still has work to do getting on-base, as his on-base percentage was just .322 in 2011. He figures to score more runs in 2012 than he did in 2011 (71) hitting a couple of spots in the order ahead of Albert Pujols. A first trip to the All-Star Game isn't out of the question. Team production in 2011: .282 average, 12 home runs, 67 RBI, .757 OPS Expected production in 2012: .290 average, 15 home runs, 75 RBI, .750 OPS 3. Oakland Former Texas A&M star Cliff Pennington quietly had a solid season for the Athletics. Pennington had eight home runs and 58 RBI for Oakland. While 58 RBI might not sound like a lot to many teams, it was the third-highest total turned in by an Oakland player in 2011. The switch-hitting Pennington set career highs in homers and RBI. But Pennington also ran less in 2011, as his stolen base total went from 29 in 2010 to 14 in 2011. He's also still inconsistent in the field. His 25 errors in 2010 were the most by an AL shortstop. He cut that number to 22 last year but still ranked second among AL shortstops. He should continue to improve in his third full season as a starter. Team production in 2011: .261 average, 9 home runs, 61 RBI, .686 OPS Expected production in 2012: .265 average, 10 home runs, 65 RBI, .700 OPS 4. Seattle Well at least the Mariners have an idea what to expect out of their everyday shortstop in Brendan Ryan. Ryan, who began his career with St. Louis before getting traded to the Mariners before the 2011 season, has been remarkably consistent at the plate in the last three years. He had three home runs and 39 RBIs for Seattle last season. That marked three consecutive seasons in which Ryan has hit two or three homers and had between 36 and 39 RBI. Ryan was slowed early in spring training by neck and shoulder woes that forced his 2011 season to end two weeks early. He's recovered from that and should be good to go for the regular season. The Mariners also have Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki in camp. The veteran from Japan is fighting for a roster spot and has made a strong impression so far this spring. Team production in 2011: .250 average, 5 home runs, 52 RBI, .659 OPS Expected production in 2012: .260 average, 7 home runs, 60 RBI, .675 OPS
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