Andrelton Simmons Changed Everything

At the end of May, the Braves were trying to get back on track. At 28-24 and on a two-game winning streak, things looked fine in an immediate sense. However, the club was in fourth place, was just coming off an eight-game losing streak, and Tyler Pastornicky looked like the worst player in the major leagues over the first two months. He hit just .243/.287 /.325 and played an awful shortstop, with seven errors on the one hand and a -12 UZR and -16 DRS on the other.

Of Pastornicky’s defense, Frank Wren simply said, “We need more.” Enter Andrelton Simmons.

Simmons only played in 49 games after his June call-up — a broken hand kept him out of 56 games from July through early September — but his impact was undeniable. His bat was enough to separate himself from Pastornicky — he posted a .289/.335/.416 (101 wRC+), ranking as one of just 15 shortstops (minimum 150 PAs) to hit above the league average.

It wasn’t just a mere 182 plate appearances — an encouraging 182, to be sure, but still just 182 — that cemented Simmons’s place as Braves Shortstop of the Future. It was a glove that had everyone from your friendly local area scout to Baseball Info Solution’s central computer heaping praises. “Defensively, he’s already an All-Star type,” one scout told ESPN.com (and he wasn’t alone, as you’ll see in the link). UZR and DRS had Simmons at at +10 and +19 respectively — almost mirroring Pastornicky.

The definitive statistic: the Braves allowed a .298 BABIP through May. From June 2nd — Simmons’s first game — through July 8th — his hand injury — they allowed just a .261 mark. The Braves went 18-15 through that stretch despite facing an interleague schedule rife with AL East teams — the Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Yankees again, and the Red Sox — as well as six games against the Nationals. By then, the Braves were in playoff position, and they didn’t look back.

But as much as Simmons’s benefits were felt in 2012, the confidence the Braves can have in his glove will be a tremendous asset as they build their 2013 club. There was little guarantee the Braves would find a short term solution at shortstop in 2012 — Pastornicky’s issues were exposed at the major league level and Simmons began the season at Double-A, ostensibly still a year (or even two) from the majors. But with Simmons demonstrating his glove as top-tier, the Braves can be confident he will help the team even if his bat regresses to the point one would expect a player with just 182 plate appearances above Double-A.

Considering the free agent shortstop class amounts to Stephen Drew and a prayer, Atlanta would either be forced to part with a key asset or enter 2013 with a huge hole in its infield without a major league-ready Simmons. Also, considering the Braves have already committed somewhere around $71 million for 2012 (based on Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections at MLB Trade Rumors) and still need to replace or re-sign Michael Bourn, a big-money shortstop may not have been financially feasible.

But with Simmons in tow, the Braves can go after Bourn, Angel Pagan, B.J. Upton or any other free agent center fielder they desire and have money left to shore up other areas of need (outfield and third base depth spring to mind). With Simmons, Heyward and Freddie Freeman, the Braves have a core of young position players to rival any team in the league.

Andrelton Simmons changed the course of the Braves’ season with his mid-season arrival in 2012. This offseason, his stabilizing presence gives the Braves the freedom to continue on the path of contention even as the Chipper Jones era comes to an end.



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stan
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stan
3 years 10 months ago

Freddie Freeman is a core young position player? More like a mediocre player who’ll be kept a couple more years until he’s too expensive. He’s one of the worst full time first basemen in the majors!

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

Of the 25 qualified 1B in 2012 (aka full time firstbasemen), Freeman was 14th best. Meaning there were 11 worse than him. You might want to reconsider your definition of “one of the worst”, if that encompasses nearly 50% of the sample size.

stan
Guest
stan
3 years 10 months ago

Yeah, you’re right. Still, A guy who hasn’t yet posted an .800 OPS at a power position and is a below average hitter and runner has no business being in the conversation of a young core player on any team, much less one that has both Simmons and Heyward.

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles
3 years 10 months ago

14th in ops too, league average at age 22.

Pitnick
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Pitnick
3 years 10 months ago

But he isn’t a below average hitter…

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
3 years 10 months ago

He’s league average at first with eye test great d, and is just 22. The braves have three starters under 24, a gold glove ss, a guy on the brink of MVP numbers and gold glove d, and a league average first base bat with an above average glove. Pretty exciting.

Dave
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Dave
3 years 10 months ago

Agreed.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
3 years 10 months ago

I think you mean “one of the better full time first basemen in the majors” fixed that for ya.

Freeman is firmly entrenched as an average regular at age 22. I’ll take his career arc in a second.

Tomcat
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Tomcat
3 years 10 months ago

Freeman punished RHP to the tune of .276/.358/.497 last year, and while he hasn’t killed LHP in the same manner he is a full year young than Mike Olt who is considered a top prospect. At the start of next year Freeman will be the same age that Joey Votto and Todd Helton were year they started their final year of AAA. While Freeman will likely not have the career those two did, it is a bit early to write the kid off.

AA
Guest
AA
3 years 10 months ago

Remember too that Freeman is hitting in a far less hitter-friendly park than either of those two examples. Not that he is as good as Votto, nor does he have the ridiculous plate discipline of Helton, but context matters.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 10 months ago

Those 3 guys all played 2012 at age 22 and were all in the top-20 for players under 25 (in fWAR). The statement was that the Braves group of young position players was as good as anyone in the league. It was a true statement.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 10 months ago

And I don’t think it makes a good point to cherry pick, but they were all top-10 fWAR guys if you limit it to 22 and under.

jim
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jim
3 years 10 months ago

stan is either not too smart, or a great troll…. my money is on the former

Carry On My Heyward Son
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Carry On My Heyward Son
3 years 10 months ago

So stan is obviously a troll, but after taking another look at Freeman’s stats, I was just so struck by how promising they are that I have to post them anyway: Freeman played last season – his second full season in the majors – as a 22-year-old, and he raised his walk percentage by 2%. He lowered his strikeout percentage by 2%. He raised his ISO by .030. Fully 26% of the balls he smacked were line drives. Kid’s good and might end up really good really soon.

Ransom
Member
Ransom
3 years 10 months ago

I don’t know if Freeman will ever be a star, but he’s only 23 and has a few years of major league experience when most prospects his age are still in the minors. I don’t think he has hit his prime yet and the fan graphs leaderboards has him as the 14th best full time 1B this past year by WAR. He even has bad defensive metrics and many see him as a plus defender going forward. He may not light up your fantasy league, but I wish we had someone like him on the Pirates, and I do see him as a core position player the Braves can build around for the future
.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 10 months ago

That is probably the correct take on Freeman. He fills a hole the Braves have had at first for years, but I don’t really see him as a future All-Star. He will be one of those guys that get overpaid in free agency because superficially his offensive numbers will look good, but he brings very little in all other aspects of the game. He may be the worst baserunner in the league after Brian McCann.

Jaack
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Jaack
3 years 10 months ago

I’d disagree about McCann being the slowest. Despite his retirement, Bengie Molina still hasn’t made it to the dugout of The Ballpark at Arlington after Game 5 of the 2010 WS.

Tomcat
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Tomcat
3 years 10 months ago

compare him to say Big Tex, Texeira debuted at the same age that Freeman will be next year.

In his age 23 season Tex hit .259/.331/.480 good for an .811OPS 102OPS+ with 26 HR 44BB/120K in 529AB.

In his age 22 season Freeman hit .259/.340/.456 good for a .796OPS/113OPS+ with 23HR 64BB/129K in 540AB

Freeman will likely never be a 40HR+ threat but doesn’t need to be to be among the best young 1B in MLB.

B N
Guest
B N
3 years 10 months ago

This. Some people are talking like everyone is going to have a Prince Fielder or a Miguel Cabrera at first base. The truth is, these guys don’t grow on trees and some of them (Cabrera, Youkilis, etc) have been doubled-up on the same team. All told, the market is more like there are 8-10 top tier slugging first basemen and then 20 more teams fighting to get guys like Freeman, Overbay, J.T. Snow, or Loney to hold down the position until someone better comes along. Given teams wanted Gaby Sanchez as an upgrade to the position, Mitch Moreland is 1B on a top AL team, and Loney will get a job this offseason… Freeman under cost control is definitely an asset.

bstar
Guest
bstar
3 years 10 months ago

If Freeman can learn a little patience at the plate, I’ll take his batting numbers right now plus the added boost of a few extra walks and you won’t find me complaining about Freddie Freeman. He has bad range but possibly the finest pair of hands in the NL defensively, so I can live with his slowness afoot on the basepaths.

I think it’s way too early to put a ceiling on Freeman’s offensive potential. We really don’t know how much this guy’s power stroke is going to mature; if it does, he could be a 30-35 HR guy like Adam LaRoche.

Will
Guest
Will
3 years 10 months ago

“If Freeman can learn a little patience at the plate, I’ll take his batting numbers right now plus the added boost of a few extra walks and you won’t find me complaining about Freddie Freeman.”

What are you talking about? Freeman had a 10.3% BB% last year, which was 9th best among qualified 1B. League average at 1B was 9.3%.

He’s no Votto, but taking walks isn’t one of his weaknesses.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 10 months ago

Simmons looked like a Gold Glover the minute he stepped on a MLB diamond.His defense before the injury was reminiscent of Ozzie Smith’s wizardry at the position. There was a dip after the layoff from the injury, but that might have been rust from the time off.

I could see him regularly putting up Adam Everett-like defensive numbers at SS the next several years.

bstar
Guest
bstar
3 years 10 months ago

I think he’s going to blow everyone out of the water defensively next year and could potentially be the talk of baseball once his defensive runs start adding up, much like Brett Lawrie this past year. Except there’s no strange bonus-point-shift-play thing going on with Simmons’ numbers. He’s the real deal.

Consider this: according to DRS, Simmons had 19 fielding runs in 49 games. That’s 59 runs/150. He’s going to beat the all-time record at that pace. And that pace was even higher before his final 10 games when he was still hampered post-injury.

CJ
Guest
CJ
3 years 10 months ago

He almost certainly wasn’t that good. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is worth 50 runs per season on defense given our current understanding of defense. You really have to regress that UZR over a third of a season.

Scott Ferris
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Scott Ferris
3 years 10 months ago

Simmons definitely has me excited for the future. I hope he gets to show off his arm on the mound in a blowout some day.

nolan
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nolan
3 years 10 months ago

this should happen more often.

JT Grace
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JT Grace
3 years 10 months ago

I would be too worried that he would injure his golden arm….no thanks.

Dan
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Dan
3 years 10 months ago

“ranking as one of just 15 shortstops (minimum 150 PAs) to hit above the league average.” With 30 teams, that sounds about right.

Matt
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Matt
3 years 10 months ago

There were 52 SS last year with 150+ PAs. So above average for the position.

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
3 years 10 months ago

Will Simmons hit well enough to get into gold glove consideration?

tbjfan
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tbjfan
3 years 9 months ago

I’m wondering if there is a team is willing to take Alex Gonzalez as a backup player.

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