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Do Elvis Andrus and Mike Leake have room to grow?

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Elvis Andrus is young enough to have breakout potential, but can he realize it? (USATSI)
Elvis Andrus is young enough to have breakout potential, but can he realize it? (USATSI)

Elvis Andrus and Mike Leake have more in common than the fact that both have hit one home run this season.

Both players reached the majors quickly, as Andrus made the leap from Double-A at the age of 20, while Leake debuted straight out of college ball, getting his first -- and only -- taste of the minors a full year after he became a big leaguer. Andrus and Leake also pretty much have the same skill sets that they had when they debuted as early-twenty-somethings. Andrus has been a consistent stolen base threat, but he has yet to develop power and has delivered merely ordinary batting averages and on-base percentages. Leake is still a contact pitcher with decent, but not great, control.

I recently researched an upcoming column on one-time prospects who have yet to break out, and Andrus and Leake could have easily been included. But while the likes of Travis Snider and Dayan Viciedo don't have widespead Fantasy appeal, Andrus is universally owned, and Leake is owned in a majority of the leagues on CBSSports.com.

So the question for these two isn't whether they are Fantasy-relevant, but rather, can they take their game to another level? Both are young enough for a breakout, yet neither has shown any signs of being any more valuable than they have already been in past years. Andrus had precious little power in the minors, and his rookie season output of six homers still stands as a career high. His best hope for increasing his value is to raise his batting average, and he appears to be capable of doing that. In 2011, he struck out in just 13 percent of his at-bats, but he recorded only 28 infield hits and finished with a .279 batting average. That season was sandwiched by campaigns with 40 infield hits, but higher strikeout rates kept his batting average below .290. If Andrus can combine the infield hits with fewer Ks, he has a shot to hit .300 or higher.

As for Leake, he seems to have nowhere to go but down. Last season was the first time that he registered an ERA below 3.80, and he needed a 77 percent strand rate to it. Leake is unlikely to repeat or exceed that rate, and meanwhile, he has shown little progress as a strikeout pitcher. His current 2.95 ERA and 0.89 WHIP are heavily skewed by a .200 BABIP that is a sure sign of extremely good luck. If anything, Leake is overowned and likely to be dropped in many leagues in the coming weeks.

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