There are aspects of this Rangers team that evoke doubt and skepticism in the recesses of my consciousness, and there are things that this team is going to have to improve upon if it intends to build a fair-sized buffer between itself and the division's second-place squad ... but I'm pleased to state that my early-season concerns about Vladimir Guerrero's raw power have largely been assuaged (for now), mostly by his eight home runs in 148 plate appearances (.345/.377/.547) but also by his solo shot last night on a Jered Weaver curve ball that couldn't have been more than six inches off the ground:
● Wrote ESPN.com's Rob Neyer of Monday morning's Julio Borbon dissection (which led with Neyer contending that "baseball men generally despise" platoons employed in center field): "These things are inherently imprecise, but I think I would give him at least four weeks unless he's so down on himself that a confidence-building stint with Oklahoma seems necessary rather than momentarily convenient. Because unless Borbon's hurt, he's still the most talented center fielder the club has."
Whenever the topic of how to handle struggling young players comes up (and it does come up a lot), one of the Rangers-specific examples you sometimes see cited is Chris Davis, along with the notion that perhaps the Rangers should have pulled the trigger on Davis earlier last summer, and that not doing so in a timelier fashion inflicted irreparable damage upon his psyche, confidence or what-have-you. Is that at least possible in theory? Intuitively speaking, I think so, but theory doesn't always translate into reality, and while I believe it's something Texas needs to remain mindful of, any present calls on my part to change the center field guard have a lot more to do with the lack of production than concern that Borbon's mind will become completely screwed.
● It's probably redundant to say this at this point, but Elvis Andrus (.331/.431/.382; .375 wOBA) has been one of baseball's great revelations this year, owing in no small part to a 14.4 percent walk rate which is nearly double that of what he posted last year and suggestive that he's no longer a player with "no secondary skills."
Since anyone who frequents this space knows that I'm endlessly fascinated by historical context and the implications of such, indulge me for a moment while I exhibit this table showing (a) the combined wins above replacement (WAR) totals from the first and second seasons of every post-1900 middle infielder who debuted at the age of 23 or younger, and (b) a projection of where I believe Elvis Andrus has a good chance of falling on this 1,108-player list:
[Direct link to the full table available here. All 1,108 eligible players played between 1901-2010, made their major league debut no later than their age-23 season, and played at least 50 percent of their games at shortstop and/or second base. I used Dan Syzmborski's 2010 ZiPS update -- available at FanGraphs -- to help create a projection for what Andrus's career batting line and WAR might look like after the 2010 regular season. * signifies at least one career All-Star appearance; ** signifies Hall of Fame.]
So, there you have it -- a player who doesn't even turn 22 until late August (and thus is only in the midst of his age 20-21 seasons) already has a strong chance of posting one of the 15-20 best starts to a major league career by a middle infielder of all time. This is, of course, a two-sided deal -- it means that Andrus is a remarkably precocious player, one who's already above average at a very early point in his career and might be more difficult to forecast as a result, but it also renders the prospect of Texas re-signing him down the line that much more dim, particularly while Scott Boras remains in his employ. Right now, though, I think we can live with that trade-off.
Quick Hits: More evidence that Elvis Andrus is defensively transcendent ... Ryan Garko successfully cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City, reducing the Rangers' 40-man roster to 39 players ... Per Jonah Keri, Doug Melvin once texted Theo Epstein at the trade deadline offering J.J. Hardy for Clay Buchholz and Josh Bard. Theo's response: "lol" ... Remember the straight-behind-home plate camera angle? Well, kiss it goodbye.