Andrelton Simmons Assigned to Minors

It appears as though, after a spring’s worth of uncertainty, the Atlanta Braves have decided on an Opening Day shortstop, with the news this afternoon (courtesy David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution) that the club has assigned defensive wunderkind Andrelton Simmons to minor-league camp, leaving Tyler Pastornicky with the job.

To which level, precisely, Simmons has been sent remains to be seen, but there are options available to the Braves: given his age (22) and previous high level (High-A Lynchburg), an assigment to Double-A wouldn’t (nor should it) be regarded as a slight to Simmons’ skill level or potential. There’s certainly reason to believe that — aside from whatever he showed the coaching staff and front office this spring — that Pastornicky’s experience in the high minors (672 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A) was instrumental in helping him to secure the starting spot to break camp. There’s also reason to believe that exposure to more advanced pitching would help Simmons’ refine his offensive game.

So, even if Simmons were to spend the entirety of 2012 in the minors, it likely wouldn’t represent any kind of misstep on the part of the Braves.

That said, with Simmons, there are three points always to consider:

1. Defense is his primary skill.

2. His defensive skill — even if coupled with merely replacement-level offense — probably makes him an average major leaguer right now.

3. Defense peaks earlier than other skills — probably around 25 or so.

In light of the facts, it’s probably fair to say that the window on Andrelton Simmons’ major-league career is a slightly different one than we see for many prospects, with the beginning of his peak set to arrive as soon as now. Because a lot of his value is derived from defensive play — that, coupled with the fact that his offensive ceiling is probably limited by a lack of power upside — Simmons will likely never be much more valuable than he will by, say, the middle or end of the 2012 season.

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18 Responses to “Andrelton Simmons Assigned to Minors”

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  1. Nitram Odarp says:

    I appreciate the article, but I disagree with a few of the statements. First, I don’t think Simmons is really subject to the same sort defensive aging curve as your normal defensive SS because of both his height/build and his arm. One of the reasons defense peaks early is because guys tend to get bigger as they age. That’s less of a problem for Simmons and his 6’2″ frame than it is for the average SS. The guy could put on another 10-15 pounds and still remain extremely skinny. Second, it’s range, not arm, that leads to earlier defensive fall off. A guy with an 80 arm should be expected to have a flatter defensive aging curve, because he can still remain a very good defensive SS even if his range drops off.

    I would also disagree with the assessment that Simmons’ offensive ceiling is limited. The guys is less than 2 year removed from playing in junior college. While age relative to league may be more important, don’t discount experience relative to league either. I don’t think there is any reason to think Simmons is close to a finished product as an offensive player. I’m not sure where you’re getting the lack of power upside for Simmons either. Like I mentioned above, he’s 6’2″ and extremely skinny, so he has the frame to add muscle without costing himself much range. Scouts have also noted his quick wrists and good bat speed. If you’ve watched him hit this spring, you know he’s not a slap hitter by any means either. The guy has a pretty aggressive swing up their. He’s never going to be a good power hitter or anything, but I don’t think there is any reason to think an ISO in the .120-.150 is out of the question in his prime.

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  2. NickH says:

    As a Braves fan, my impression of Simmons at this point is that his defense is MLB-ready but if he started on the major league level he couldn’t be expected to put up more than a .600 OPS. By waiting to call up Simmons, the Braves avoid burning any of his service time now, and hopefully he’ll be a .650 – .700 OPS guy when he is called up for good. Moreover, there’s no point in having Simmons on the ML roster now if he’s just going to sit in favor of Pastornicky.

    I think the Braves are smart to give Simmons a chance to develop some gap power and learn to hit breaking balls; that increases the chances that he’ll be a complete player, which would make him extremely valuable.

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  3. Eminor3rd says:

    I heard either Law or Goldstein (maybe both talking to each other on a podcast) say that Simmons has a decent chance to add weight and power and still be an above average SS. I’d MUCH rather send him down to the minors and let him develop and use the lower-ceilinged Pastornicky now, especially considering their 2012 prduction levels likley won/t be significantly different.

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  4. Bronnt says:

    What’s replacement level offense defined as? 20% below league average? Lower? Given that Simmons has some real trouble with big league off-speed stuff, I expect that, this year, he would struggle to put up a wRC+ of 70 in the majors. He still needs some time to gain exposure to higher level pitching before he’ll be ready.

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  5. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Got to see this guy up close at spring training, and that is a stunning defensive player. If the Braves can’t use him as a #8-9 hitter who saves runs, there are probably 15 teams that can.

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    • Angry Braves Fan says:

      I am totally agree with Well-Beered. Why waist that kind of a talent in the minors. If U can’t use him, trade him to a team that will. There will be who are interested. It’s a shame on the way they handle this.

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      • Tommy says:

        They can use that talent in the future, they just want to maximize the value and send him to the minors for a year to hopefully develop him into an elite shortstop rather than possibly stunt his growth and put him in the majors, I don’t even think he would be better than Pastornicky this year.

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      • Eminor3rd says:

        Are you being sarcastic? He’s like a 19 year old prospect that has never played above single A. Why would they need to trade him? They just don’t think he’s ready yet

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      • cavebird says:

        The problem is that he isn’t 19. He’s 22—he was an older JUCO draftee. That being said, another year in the high minors would probably be great for his development and there is no need to trade him—Pastornicky isn’t a long term answer at SS, his defense isn’t good enough and his bat isn’t good enough to make up for defensive shortcomings. Pastornicky is a stop gap until Simmons’s bat is as ready as it ever will be in a year or so.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Why trade him? Pastornicky is going to be decent but probably is about as good as he’ll be and he’ll end up as a good utility player. Once Simmons seasons a little and can handle the bat, he’ll be called up and be an above average SS.

        The only person I’d trade Simmons for is Jurickson Profar, which isn’t happening unless they include like, Teheran, Delgado, and Heyward.

        It baffles me when people still don’t understand how minor leagues work. You aren’t “wasting” anything. If a guy can get better in the minors, it’s not wasting.

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  6. James Piette says:

    I know Bill James often posited that fielders peak at 25-years-old, but I have not seen enough evidence to back that up. The only studies I have seen on the matter are riddled with either (a) noise problems and/or (b) survival biases, given that position players are often moved before they can truly regress. I did an entire thesis on the subject and still did not come to any profound conclusion. Even worse, I am fairly certain that it is all very position-dependent; that is, players at particular positions may age very well into their 30’s. Can you point me to some studies discussing the peak age of fielders? I could be out of touch, so any references would help.

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    • philosofool says:

      While I’ve not seen the evidence either way, everything you say sounds very plausible. I worry a lot about survivor bias that is driven by offensive skill.

      I have heard Michael Lichtman, UZR inventor, say that defense declines basically from day one, but not with a study to support this.

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  7. Mike W says:

    People are waaay too excited about this guy. He’s a terrific fielder but is very young and completely overmatched as a hitter right now. How often do bad organizations give a guy a job because of a good spring, and how often does it work out? Occasionally, and very, very rarely. How often do good organizations do it? Just about never. Atlanta (1) is trying to make the playoffs this year, gang, (2) has every reason to be patient with a guy who can’t. hit. major. league. pitching, and (3) is not a bad organization.

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  8. TK says:

    It is crazy to assume that Simmons’ peak is now. Even if his defense is regressing from day 1, it would be very slow, and his offensive gains will more than make up for it (most likely).

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  9. Jim Lahey says:

    Sounds just like another SS we’ve spent all spring…. 80 glove but can’t hit a lick.

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  10. levi rhoades says:

    Hey guys i played with him in summer ball in canada and coached him a semester at juco, do you guys know what this kid was doing 4 years ago? do you people that disagree with with his being ready even know how much of a freak talent this kid is? He adjusts to every single level he is at instantly he has instincts you have never seen, he would be a gold glove shortstop THIS year and he would hit .300 easy with a 90 arm across the diamond and range NEVER seen before, simmons is ready, didn’t play much ball in curaco goes to juco scouts see him for one year and BOOM 2nd rounder, minor league all star, oh then wins a batting title, He is a freak and of a caliber none of us have ever seen. oh yea 4 years ago he was playing soccer

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    • Aaron says:

      Not sure if trolling or what, but if you watched him at all this spring, you know damn good and well he wouldn’t hit .300 in the majors this year.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        gonna be hilarious if he goes 3/10 in September when he gets called up with the roster expansion. I agree with your real point though.

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