Aybar evolving into elite shortstop

Aybar evolving into elite shortstop

OAKLAND -- Erick Aybar arguably has been the Angels' most valuable position player this season. The shortstop has played at a high level defensively while bringing some power into his offensive package to go with blazing speed and a quick bat.

"I'm feeling real good right now," said Aybar, who rode a nine-game hitting streak (.361) into Sunday's series finale against the Athletics. "I'm seeing the ball good and getting some good swings."

One of those swings produced a home run against Trevor Cahill in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader, a 4-2 win. It was Aybar's seventh blast of the season, exceeding by two his previous season high. His .333 average with runners in scoring position leads the team and is ninth in the American League.

"I never think about a homer," he said, grinning, "but I'll take it. He threw me a changeup, down, and I got it."

Aybar's primary tools are his legs and his powerful right arm. His quickness and hands enable him to handle anything hit his way, and his gun from the hole is one of the game's best.

Aybar leads the club with 20 steals and has been caught only twice, reflecting his development in terms of reading pitchers and getting clean breaks.

"It's good to see him playing the game the way he can," ace Jered Weaver said. "I played with the guy from Double-A up, and he's turned himself into the player he was in the Minor Leagues."

Aybar, who is batting .287 with 40 RBIs, will be matched against Texas' Elvis Andrus this week at Angel Stadium -- two of the game's elite shortstops trying to outdo each other with their athleticism. Aybar's .983 fielding percentage has him ranked third in the AL.

"He's really good," Aybar said of Andrus. "There are some great shortstops in the league. Asdrubal Cabrera, that guy is tremendous. I'm looking forward to this series. You really focus and concentrate when you compete against the best, so I always like to play against Texas."