Could Andrus be the next Jeter?
Young shortstop reminds coach Hansen of Yanks All-Star
SAN FRANCISCO -- Triple-A Richmond pitching coach Guy Hansen has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to provide a positive influence on the development of countless pitchers over the course of the past three decades.
But like many others, he also has an entrepreneurial side -- one that has led him to wonder just how much better life would be if he could reap the financial benefits that would come courtesy of being Elvis Andrus' agent.
Of course, to any baseball person who has come to understand the growing legend of this 18-year-old shortstop named Elvis, this desire is on par with those shared by countless men who dream of entering into holy matrimony with Shakira.
"I saw so much of Elvis during Spring Training that I went up to him after seeing him make a play up the middle, introduced myself to him and told him I spoke a little bit of Spanish," the always jovial Hansen said. "Then I told him that I wouldn't be coaching a whole lot longer because I didn't think my body would be able to make it and would love for him to get rid of his agent and let me do just one thing the rest of my life, and that's be his agent. I think the world of him."
Since signing with the Braves as a 16-year-old shortstop out of Venezuela on Jan. 26, 2005, Andrus has seen his star rapidly rise. His greatest honor to date came at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon, when he played for the World Team in the Futures Game, which is held annually in conjunction with Major League Baseball's All-Star Game festivities.
Other Braves who participated in this event, which showcases the game's top Minor League prospects, included shortstop Brent Lillibridge, Richmond manager Dave Brundage and Hansen, who served as the World Team's pitching coach. Brundage served as a coach for the U.S. Team, which used Lillibridge as its starting shortstop.
"It's like a dream to be in this big-league stadium," said the impressively mature Andrus, who went hitless in two at-bats on Sunday. "It's really a great experience for me."
Even though they'd seen him hit a respectable .265 for Class A Rome as one of the South Atlantic League's youngest players last year, the Braves sent Andrus to Advanced Class A Myrtle Beach this year with the expectation that there would be some of the early struggles that he's realized.
While seeing a greater array of breaking balls and gaining a better sense of the strike zone, Andrus spent much of the season's first 10 weeks in a slump. But with a 14-game hitting streak that was snapped on Thursday, the young shortstop started to show why he's one of the game's top prospects.
During his 14-game hitting streak, Andrus batted .350 (21-for-60) with five doubles and 12 RBIs.
"I'm getting better," said Andrus, who has hit .243 with a .341 slugging percentage in 341 at-bats this year. "The pitchers don't make a lot of mistakes, and a lot of the guys I'm playing against are like five or six years older than me, and they are real good with the strike zone."
As Andrus took batting practice and fielded some grounders before Sunday's event, many scouts were impressed with the fluidity of his still-developing, 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame.
"He's growing into a man," one American League scout said.
When Hansen was Kansas City's pitching coach in 1992, the Royals' director of scouting asked him to view film of a number of potential draftees. During that evaluation, Hansen gained the belief that some kid named Derek Jeter definitely had the brightest future.
As Hansen currently looks at Andrus, he sees somebody who reminds him of that 18-year-old Jeter kid.
"That's the guy that Elvis reminds me of," Hansen said. "In fact, his personality reminds me of Jeter's. He's just a natural human being."
When Jeter was 18, he endured a number of struggles, both offensively and defensively, in the Gulf Coast League -- a league in which Andrus batted .295 at the ripe age of 16.
Though he is enduring the anticipated struggles experienced by many young top prospects, Andrus still has his sights of making it to Atlanta by at least September of the 2008 season.
With Edgar Renteria and Yunel Escobar already in place in Atlanta and Lillibridge -- who struck out in both of his at-bats on Sunday -- aiming to get there soon, the Braves are obviously stocked at shortstop.
But Andrus, who may prove to be the best of this talented bunch, doesn't see this as an obstacle. Instead he sees it as just one of the many challenges he'll face in hopes of becoming the next great shortstop to come out of the fertile grounds of Venezuela.
"Who knows when I'll get there?" he said. "I'm just working hard every day to get there."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.