Braves Call Up Andrelton Simmons

Only three NL teams have a higher BABIP against than the Braves, a number which would be even worse if not for a top notch defensive outfield. Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward are all plus defenders in the outfield, but the Braves have struggled tremendously on the defensive front in the infield. Dan Uggla is annually one of the worst defensive second baseman in the league, Chipper Jones and Juan Francisco are both below average in the field, Freddie Freeman maintains a solid glove but very limited range, and Tyler Pastornicky has been the worst defensive shortstop based on pretty much every metric.

To help the team’s poor defense and struggling run prevention, the Braves are calling up shortstop Andrelton Simmons to replace Pastornicky, who has subsequently been demoted to triple-A. Keith Law stated yesterday on twitter that Simmons has an 80 arm and 80 defense. Simmons pitched in college and there was still a reasonable chance that he ended up as a professional pitcher when he was drafted in the second round in 2010, but his skills at shortstop made him too valuable to be moved to the mound. The Braves have developed some very good defensive shortstops over the past number of years, such as Elvis Andrus and Yunel Escobar, but Simmons may already be a better defender than both.

In spring, Simmons pushed Pastornicky for the starting job, but the team eventually decided to give the position to the player who had experience in the upper minors. Pastornicky hit well last season across double-A and triple-A while Simmons only reached high-A last season. He could have held onto the starting job if he hit like a league average shortstop, even his troublesome defense. However, his 67 wRC+ was far too underwhelming to continue playing him in combination with such poor defense. Simmons likely will not hit much better, but his defense will add value where Pastornicky was hurting the team most.

Even though he is not expected to produce much at the plate, Simmons did hit well enough to warrant the call, batting .292/.372/.421 with three homers, 10 steals in 12 chances, and 20 walks to 20 strikeouts in 200 double-A Mississippi plate appearances. The power and speed will likely diminish in the majors, along with the dead even BB/K rate, but an empty average and relatively consistent contact should allow him to hit enough to warrant every day play.

The decision to let Simmons get at least some experience at double-A was still the correct one. Even if the Braves felt as if Simmons was the best player at that time, pushing him all the way through the minors without at least some experience in the upper minors could have proven to be detrimental to his development. Add in the fact that Pastornicky hit well enough to warrant a shot, and the decision to start the season with him rather than Simmons did make sense. What this eventually means for Pastornicky is yet to be determined. Many already saw him as a utility type, and if Simmons excels in the starting role then that may indeed be where Pastornicky ends up.

The people most happy about this move are likely the Braves’ pitchers. The Braves do not have the ground ball heavy staff that they have had over the past few seasons, but they still have the number 12 ground ball rate in the game. The addition of an 80 defender over arguably the worst defensive player at the game’s most important position is about as big of an improvement a team can hope to make from an in house solution. And who knows, if the Braves end up in a Darnell McDonald vs. Chris Davis type situation, at least they can turn to a 98mph heater to finish the game.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

30 Responses to “Braves Call Up Andrelton Simmons”

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  1. chiefglockandhummer says:

    don’t forget he doesn’t turn twenty-three until halfway through december. i think he ends up as a starting 2B in a year or so, maybe just not with the braves

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    • chiefglockandhummer says:

      pastornicky i mean, obvs

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I was thinking more of a utility infielder once he gets his D cleaned up. I don’t mean adding range, more like a Derek Jeter type where he doesn’t really make plays, but he doesn’t miss them either.

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  2. TKDC says:

    Welcome to the Bigs. Now go hit against Strasburg.

    Seriously, Braves fans rejoice.

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  3. Trevor says:

    I think the first name upgrade of this transaction outweighs the last name downgrade.

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  4. RMD says:

    Although I think the Braves are a well run organization, opening camp with Pastornicky was deeply flawed and had too much of a “wait and see” approach. Old School evaluations like “makeup” (son of a major leaguer) and batting average (with a ridiculous .398 Babip in his brief and only AAA aperance last year) thrust Pastornicky in a role he is not and likely will not be suited for.

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      Old school evaluations said he had no business playing SS in the majors. In fact, old school evaluations have been saying for awhile that he’s nothing more than a utility guy. But it is fangraphs, so why not take a shot at old school thinking even if it’s not in anyway warranted.

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      • Phantom Stranger says:

        The scouts were right in this case. Pastornicky will never be anything more than a utility guy at best in the Majors. He just doesn’t have the physical tools to succeed as a regular.

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  5. John says:

    “Keith Law stated yesterday….”

    Fake scout.

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  6. A Guy From The World of Tomorrow says:

    Does the 80 defense include range and arm strength because I’ve never seen a scout give Simmons, or Jose Iglesias or Alcides Escobar, a 80 on defense. If that’s true, then is Alcides a good comp?

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      Range is included in the 80 grade grade for his glove. He’s also got an 80 arm on top of that. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Escobar getting that sort of grade on his arm. Law mentioned in his chat today that Furcal has the best arm he’s ever seen at SS, but Simmons is pretty darn close to him. Based on the scouting grades, Simmons should immediately be an elite defensive SS, and should probably be tops in the league with a couple years.

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    • Paul says:

      Let’s call it a consensus 70 on both. Sometimes evaluators get a little out over their skis, and in Law’s case he’s argued correctly that an 80 grade is meaningless if you never use it. Still, a consensus 70 is apparently a massive ugrade from Willie Bloomquist 3.0.

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  7. When the Braves drafted Andrelton Simmons, a scout noted that he had “huge shit coming out of the ‘pen.”

    The Braves made him a shortstop anyway.

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    • Nitram Odarp says:

      I believe Simmons is to thank for that. He was announced as a pitcher when the Braves drafted him and they’ve subsequently talked about how Simmons convinced them to give him a shot in the field.

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      • Josh says:

        This is true. He wanted to be a SS. They were thinking pitcher but he convinced them to let him. So he did, and you see the result. I’ll give my generic Braves fan disclaimer, but his arm is right next to Furcal and could be even better, it’s a true gun.

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  8. Jay says:

    Your first paragraph brings up an interesting point. Is there a difference in how fielding skill impacts BABIP between infield and outfield? Slow routine ground balls are often “hits” if the fielders are out of position and take a long time to get to them. Hard ground balls are often hits if they are “too hard” for the fielder to do anything but knock it down.

    In the outfield positioning matters as well, but it seems there are fewer close calls between hits and errors.

    So in the case of the Braves, there might be a higher proportion of infield hits that would be outs on other teams.

    If this has been discussed point me to the article!

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    • Anon21 says:

      I may be misunderstanding you, but I think by far the bigger problem than infield hits is ground balls that should be fielded on the infield but instead are allowed to escape to the outfield for “regular” hits.

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  9. BRAVESFAN says:

    I hope to see more Braves fans in DC than Nats fans. Whatever you do don’t go walking around that park looking for something better to eat or see, it’s the same thing over and over again. The only thing with character there will be a Braves fan.

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    • Roger says:

      Don’t you go to the ballgame to watch the game? If you are walking around the park looking for something to do, then I think it is safe to say that you are not a baseball fan. If you are referring to before/after the game, if you can’t find something to do in DC, then you just aren’t looking.

      PS, I don’t live in DC and I am not a Nats fan. I just call BS when I see it.

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  10. Antonio Bananas says:

    I am extremely excited. At around game 6 of their losing streak I said to my brother “they need to send Pastornicky down and call up Simmons”. My thinking was that their infield sucked. Freeman is great at what a first baseman should be great at, gobbling up all throws and stretching. However, 4-6 on the diamond they suck. Watching them day after day it’s pretty obvious that their infield D is lacking. You need strength up the middle defensively. With Uggla at 2B, the SS needs to be a top tier defender. I hope Simmons is just that. Can’t be worst than Pastornicky that’s for sure.

    Good news about Simmon’s bat is that he won’t have to do much to be as productive as Pastornicky. .248/.281/.324? That’s horrible.

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  11. Nathan Nathan says:

    Nice article. It’s worth noting that Chipper is actually at 0.9 runs above average fielding, at the moment.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      I would think that range would mean less at 3B and reaction time/arm would mean more. Just like at first, I’d rather have a 1B that gobbles up every throw. Seems there are more opportunities for those kinds of plays for the respective positions.

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  12. Tom says:

    Freddie Freeman maintains a solid glove but very limited range.

    Greg Maddux maintained a solid control but very limited speed.

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  13. StevieMaddux says:

    Greg Maddux had other worldly control, great ball movement, and one of the greatest baseball minds of all time. Also his defense was better than Freeman’s.

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  14. morrowrosanna says:

    what Peter implied I’m blown away that some one able to get paid $8171 in 4 weeks on the computer. did you look at this website makecash16Com

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