Erold Andrus was all but ready to burst onto the scene at this time last season but the sample size just did not quite work out for him to get noticed. An injury slowed him in his small time in Battle Creek and before that, he hit well in the Gulf Coast League. Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera spent a whole season in Staten Island and was arguably the team MVP. Cabrera, who is three months younger than Andrus, got more attention than Andrus did while scouts felt that the two were very much alike. In fact, he arguably had the bigger upside than Melky did. But, he would have to wait until 2004 to prove this idea to be true.
Well, these two became no longer just linked by their skills but they also became teammates on opening day as Battle Creek Yankee outfielders. So, standing side by side in the outfield, it would be time for Andrus to show that he could play on the level of Cabrera. Because, to this point, there play was not that widely varied as far as performance. However, things did not go well for Andrus in the early going. While Melky Cabrera lit up the Midwest League with hit after hit, Andrus struggled mightily. In fact, on the day that Melky was promoted to the Tampa Yankees, he was batting nearly 100 points higher than Andrus. So, Cabrera was promoted and, for now, Erold's chance of surpassing Melky as far as prospect status evaporated. But with the departure of Cabrera, that may have even put a little more pressure on Andrus to be one of the star players for Battle Creek. He had to step into center field, a position he was very capable of playing. Even so, he still was behind Cabrera. By many, Melky is still considered to be the top defensive outfielder in the farm system. And, once again, Andrus plays good defense but is still trapped in Melky's shadow.
Something strange happened after the promotion of Melky Cabrera. All of a sudden, Erold Andrus' batting average started to creep up. It was gradual at first but it was steady. It made it to around .260, then around .270 and by August, he was sniffing around the .280 mark. By that point, Erold Andrus was officially on fire. He was playing a spectacular outfield and hitting the ball out of the park as well. Hitting for power was something that Melky Cabrera never did with the Battle Creek Yankees. However, he did start hitting the ball out with consistency in Tampa. But, now, it was Andrus' time to shine in Battle Creek and he was doing it. Andrus hit in many slots in the lineup including leadoff, second, third and even cleanup. Does any of this sound very familiar? It should because everything above describes the 42 games that Cabrera played with Battle Creek.
If you want to start comparing these two fine young players tool by tool, then here it is. While Melky Cabrera can run with the best of them, Erold Andrus has mastered a way to use that speed that Melky still hasn't completely found, base stealing. Erold has stolen 14 bases while only being caught four times. Melky has been far less successful at theft. But, that has been one of Erold's skills that has always been better than Melky's. Not to put across the wrong message, to this point, Cabrera has, by far, the better track record but this is only to show the upside that Andrus may have. Also, it appears that Erold Andrus does have that rare skill of being able to hit the ball out of the park. In his first full season, hitting double digit home run totals is very impressive. His stroke is smooth and crisp from both sides of the plate. Another perk is that his strikeout totals were under 100 for the 2004 season. One thing that scouts look for is consistent, solid contact and Erold Andrus has been just that in 2004. The end of the season is nearing and Andrus will be pushing hard to hit .300 for the year. Even if it doesn't happen, his gap to gap hitting ability is highly impressive. He had an outstanding 44 extra base hits this season and what the organization has to get excited about is the fact that as Andrus fills out, how many of his 32 doubles are going to turn into home runs as he fills out and matures?
Perhaps Erold Andrus has the bigger upside than Melky Cabrera but the first thing he has to do is show off these abilities in Tampa next season. Melky Cabrera has done that and now it will be Andrus' turn to step in in Tampa in 2005. It is time for him to turn on a full season of what he has done over the past few months in Battle Creek. It doesn't appear likely that he will once again be overshadowed by Melky Cabrera as a teammate as he will probably be in AA Trenton. But, make no mistake, if you are looking for a sleeper prospect in the Yankee organization, Andrus is your man. Here is a guy that has five tool player written all over him. Once again, nice work for the Yankees foreign scouting these young prospects with high upsides. All of them are high risks but sometimes reap big time rewards as well. It is possible that Andrus and Melky, who are good friends, may end up playing side by side in the Yankee outfield. Of course this isn't likely because of the ways of the Yankees but hey, you never know.
Melky Cabrera appears to be the more adaptable of the two players. You could play him just about anywhere and he would settle in and play his game. Andrus, on the other hand, while just as good of a player, needs adjustment time. And, if there is any test for him, it will be the pitching friendly Florida State League next season. Erold will be looking to follow the Melky Way but, if all goes well, his own route to the big show looks pretty well paved also.