Scouting Comparison: Andrelton Simmons vs. Tyler Pastornicky

With a glaring hole at shortstop, the Atlanta Braves are poised to hand the position over to an untested rookie who has consistently exceeded scouts’ expectations. Tyler Pastornicky worked his way up through the Braves’ system, peaking with a .314/.359/.414 line across two levels in 2011. But while Pastornicky looks like the man for 2012, he has a top-flight prospect right on his heels as Andrelton Simmons enters his third professional season and could be ready for the big leagues next year.

Simmons was the Braves second-round pick in the 2010 draft while Pastornicky was a fifth-rounder for the Blue Jays in 2008. The Braves got Pastornicky as part of the Yunel Escobar trade in 2010. Despite being drafted two years apart, both Pastornicky and Simmons will play the entire 2012 season at 23-years old.

The physical differences between the two players is noticeable. Pastornicky is slightly undersized at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and he mirrors the description of a scrappy middle infielder. While Simmons is also on the thin side, his 6-foot-2 frame offers a little more projection and the added physicality that scouts prefer.

Both players earned high marks for their effort, but Pastornicky is particularly well-regarded. Scouts have dubbed him as the classic “baseball rat,” noting that he arrives early to the ball park and is among the last to leave. Pastornicky and Simmons are both considered aggressive players who maximize their raw tools through competitive drive and high-energy play.

Beyond the generalities of their physical description and makeup, the two players also have different skill sets that should both play in the major leagues.

Hitting Ability
Scouts initially had questions about Simmons’ raw hitting ability. He overhauled his swing after turning pro, quickening his trigger and simplifying the bat’s path to the hitting zone. The result has been a more complete hitter who has an ability to make easy contact and use the whole field. After hitting just .276 in his 2010 professional debut, Simmons posted a .311 batting average in the Carolina League last year.

Pastornicky’s hands work extremely well at the plate. He gets the bat to the zone quickly and has the feel and ability to adjust his swing as pitches move to the plate. He has a high-level understanding of hitting and this part of this game seems to come naturally. His ability to work with what he’s given is exceptional — and scouts have praised him for his ability to work the ball from line to line.

Both players employ an aggressive approach at the plate. As a result, scouts want Simmons and Pastornicky work deeper into counts and draw more walks. The pair rarely strike out. For their careers, Pastornicky has whiffed in just 11% of his plate appearances; Simmons has struck out in just 7%.

Over the long haul, regardless of role, it’s reasonable to expect that both Simmons and Pastornicky will be above-average — or better — hitters who at least could at least hit in the .270 to .280 range. Given Pastornicky’s consistent profile as a natural hitter — coupled with the prior concerns over Simmons’ hitting ability — Pastornicky earns the slight edge when comparing the hit tool. The edge is extremely minor, though, and may never fully manifest at the big-league level.

Power
Power isn’t a part of either player’s game. Pastornicky is largely a singles hitter who will hit an occasional ball into the gap for a double or a triple. His contact-oriented swing isn’t conducive to lofting the ball out of the park, even if he had the strength for it. During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, I spoke with scouts who were concerned that his lack of strength would result in virtually no power against more advanced pitching. Since that time, he has shown enough ability to drive the ball that pitchers haven’t been able to overpower him.

Simmons doesn’t offer much more power but he does have more bat speed and stronger wrists that generate a little more pop when he barrels the ball. Most of his power comes to the pull side and he showed an increased willingness to turn on the ball in his second professional season. He will never be a significant home-run threat and he’ll struggle to accumulate even a handful each season, but he could rip 25 doubles a year without much trouble.

Though neither player will rely on power as an integral part of their game, Simmons has a reasonable edge over Pastornicky.

Speed
What Pastornicky lacks in power he makes up for in with speed. He’s a true plus-runner and every bit of that speed plays in game situations. He has exceptional instincts on the bases; he reads pitchers well and knows when to push for an extra base. When his raw speed and instincts are combined, Pastornicky could swipe 20 bases a year as an everyday player.

Reports on Simmons’ speed are more mixed than Pastornicky’s. The scouts I spoke with this year turned in everything from average to plus home-to-first times. The three times I saw Simmons play, I had a similar range of times. Even at his best, Simmons’ speed does not play well on the bases. He’s a raw runner who must improve his ability to read pitchers and get good jumps on his stolen-base attempts. With improvement, Simmons could steal 10 to 12 bases a year, but he’ll never be a huge base-stealing threat.

Given both his instincts and consistent, plus-speed, Pastornicky is the clear preference here.

Defense
Discussing the next two tools is where things get really fun. Both players can play defense on the left side of the infield. It is the impressiveness of that defense that separates one from the other.

Pastornicky is considered an average defender with skills that play up because of his instincts. His pre-pitch positioning is excellent and he reads the ball very well off the bat; he gets good jumps to both sides. He has good footwork and soft hands and, while he doesn’t have highlight reel range, he has more than enough for the position.

Simmons, though, is an exceptional defender. He has one of the best shortstop gloves in the minor leagues. His instincts in the field border on other-worldly. He has a tremendous first step that helps his solid foot speed play into at least plus range. He has outstanding hands and the footwork to pull off just about any play. If there’s a fault in Simmons’ defensive game, it’s that he thinks he can make every play and he’ll sometimes force the issue, which can lead to unnecessary errors.

With a potential 70-grade glove at a premium defensive position, Simmons is far above Pastornicky in the field. If the Braves were only looking for a defensive shortstop this year, they could justifiably consider playing Simmons every day.

Arm Strength
Arm strength is the biggest knock against Pastornicky in the field. He does everything else well, but his arm is average — at best — and that holds him back. He’ll struggle on throws from deep in the hole, and he doesn’t always get a lot of zip on off-balance throws — particularly those when he’s ranging up the middle.

Simmons, again, is far superior to his counterpart.. More than a few teams preferred Simmons on the mound entering the 2010 draft, thanks in large part to him lighting up the radar gun during his junior college season. Simmons has touched as high as 97 mph and just about every bit of that translates to the infield. The scouts I sat with at his games this summer were consistently throwing 70- and 80-grades on his arm strength. Without question, those grades give Simmons an edge.

The Pick
The long term-choice between Pastornicky and Simmons comes down to a debate among fans, scouts and industry folks: Do you want the security that comes with Pastornicky, or the risk and potentially high reward that comes with a player like Simmons?

Pastornicky will play in the big leagues and he could have a regular role at shortstop as soon as this season. That said, few scouts I’ve spoken with think he’ll be a consistent first-division regular. Instead, the consensus  I’ve gotten is that he’ll be more of a second-division shortstop or top-notch utility player. One scout I spoke with compared Pastornicky to Willie Bloomquist. It’s a comparison that grows on me every time I see Pastornicky in person, but it’s hardly one that elicits visions of stardom and championships.

Simmons’ glove alone will get him to the big leagues, and he has a chance to be a defensive star. How his bat develops is the big question. If he continues to hit for average — even without significant secondary skills — he’ll be a first-division regular who can provide considerable value to a championship-level club.  That potential gives Simmons the edge in my prospect evaluations.

When you look at Simmons, you see a player with the potential to make a significant impact on a team’s chances of winning a World Series title. I want that player. Teams want that player. Give me the guy who is going to impact my ability to win at the highest level. I like the guy who can do the little things and is a solid player, but I don’t “love” that guy. That’s reserved for the elite defender with a chance to hit enough to actually matter in the lineup, and that guy is Andrelton Simmons.




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Mark is the Founder and Head Scout for BaseballProspectNation.com and the Managing Editor for TigsTown.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BPN_Mark.


33 Responses to “Scouting Comparison: Andrelton Simmons vs. Tyler Pastornicky”

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  1. Ben Duronio says:

    Great stuff, Mark. Linked this over at my Braves blog.

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  2. Russell Brown says:

    I find it interesting that Simmons posted an almost identical wOBA and wRC+ despite a lofty .52 point bump in his BABIP from year 1 to year 2.

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  3. dan says:

    Simmons will be 22 for this season. Pastornicky sounds like an ideal candidate to start at 2B. Simmons sounds like the other “pure shortstop” types that have become popular recently and get millions of dollars out of Latin American countries, perhaps as a better hitter and worse fielder than Iglesias and Hechavarria. His contact ability is surprising, it will be interesting to see if he can continue to develop as a hitter.

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  4. Nik says:

    So fangraphs is turning into BravesProspectgraphs. This should belong on some kind of Braves or Minor League site.

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    • Johnny Come Lately says:

      I totally agree Nik. I can’t even think of a single reason why non-Braves fans would be interested in any Braves player, but especially a couple of minor league guys. Isn’t baseball just so much more interesting when reading about all-star caliber players at all times?

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      • Nik says:

        Yeah, but between this and Marc Hulet’s constant Braves scouting reports, there is a lack of balance on prospect coverage.

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      • Nik says:

        Sorry, that should be Mike Newman, not Marc.

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      • chuckb says:

        I can’t think of a reason why a baseball fan, at least one who’s interested in prospects and young players, wouldn’t be interested in information like this.

        If only this site allowed readers to skip over the articles they’re not interested in, the site would be that much better.

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      • Nik says:

        Its called constuctive criticism. I’m not complaining that there are articles such as this, but rather that it would be BETTER if there were player profiles other than just a single team all the time.

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    • Mike Newman says:

      Nik,

      I should let you know in advance that you will blow your top when my Sean Gilmartin piece goes live later today. Also, Matt Lipka is on deck for next week. With both being former first round picks, interest should go beyond just Braves fans.

      For me personally, I live in the Atlanta area and Rome has become my home park. Gwinnett is tougher to get to due to traffic, but I am able to scout games there as well. Also, Chattanooga allows me access to the Mississippi Braves.

      I can’t speak for Mark, but I’d be silly to not write about the players I see most.

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    • Steve says:

      Oh more comments from our resident Philly fan. Want to complain about losing to the Cards again?

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      • TK says:

        Yes, I don’t like to say someone is an awful human being just because they’ve become such a Phillies homer that they will literally say anything bad about the braves no matter how little it matters, but Nik is that guy. Honestly, I check this site constantly and he is constantly whining like a petulant child about anything positive written about the braves. Sorry for using “constantly” twice in one sentence.

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    • tiger337 says:

      Nik, I can guarantee you Mark will write about more than just Braves prospects. He’s got every team covered quite well.

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  5. Andrew says:

    Thanks for this, Mark. Do you see a scenario where Simmons supplants Pastronicky in Atlanta this year?

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    • My pleasure, Andrew.

      I think it would take a pretty extreme scenario from both sides for this to happen. Pastornicky would have to be pretty bad and Simmons would have to be pretty great in AA/AAA for that to happen in 2012.

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  6. Gabe Abreu says:

    do you see pastronicky as a david eckstein kind of player?? scrappy no power but hustling on everyplay??

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    • That’s a good question, Gabe. I talked about this on Twitter a little while ago.

      Ben Duronio mentioned that descriptions of Pastornicky remind him of an Eckstein/Theriot type. I think he’s more Theriot than Eckstein and once he gets settled into the big leagues he could post numbers in line with Theriot’s peak seasons if everything comes together.

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    • Surrealistic Pillow says:

      A lot of Eckstein in him. Scrappy. Hustles. Brings his lunch pail to work every day — a real blue-collar guy. Not afraid to take the extra base. Great teammate. Overachiever. High motor. Does the small things. Plays the game the right way.

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  7. Seth says:

    I find it odd that Simmons has “otherworldy” instincts in the field but raw instincts on the basepaths. I don’t doubt the scouting report…just find it strange when players are like that.

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    • I’m right there with you, Seth!

      It’s very bizarre to watch Simmons be so instinctual and gifted in the field and then watch him get terrible reads/jumps on the bases. I’d like to believe that the feel for the game he shows in the field would eventually translate to his base running, but I haven’t been able to convince myself of that yet.

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      • Seth says:

        I think it is more unusual in his case b/c he displays such great instincts on the defensive side of the ball. Generally, if there is such a wide discrepancy in the instinct displayed it will be defensively. And that is usually b/c some guys just don’t care about the defensive side as much. But I would think that the instincts should carry over…unless he’s just bad at reading other people. IE he is good at reading the path of the ball/bat and reacting but not so good at reading a pitcher or fielders.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        Not to criticize your scouting techniques, but is it possible that his bad instincts on the bases could be due to SSS? Is this just your personal opinion or is it generally shared among other scouts?

        Loved the write-up, btw.

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      • The opinion of Simmons’ base running instincts is a commonly held one. I’ve witnessed it and discussed it with scouts that have seen him more than me. Even those within the Braves organization that I’ve discussed it with, acknowledge the weakness.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Donno how much being from Curacao has to do with it but maybe that’s it? I watched a documentary on their Little League team, not like it would be how he ends up (Jurickson Profar’s little brother was in the documentary though, kinda cool). They seem to really be big on being athletic and fundamental. Which you’d think would mean being great at base running but maybe they don’t focus on that as much. Andruw Jones was amazing in Center, but I don’t remember him being anywhere near as good on the base paths. Then again, it’d be pretty damn hard to be as good at anything as Andruw Jones was at patrolling center in his prime.

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  8. Chad says:

    As a Brave’s fan, i’m cautiously optimistic about Pastornicky this year. I think he could develop into an average SS, which compared to what we got out of A-Gon, i’d be happy. Hopefully Simmons continues to mature physically and as a position player and pushes Pastornicky into a utility role in 2013 or 2014.

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  9. Brian Cartwright says:

    From analyzing their stats, I do believe that Pastornicky will turn out to be a better hitter, but that both would be below average, even at shortstop. I generally agree with the defense as well, although I’d call Pastornicky’s performance below average, as I have rated him at -6, -3, -8 and -6 the past four seasons. Simmons is indeed other worldly, with +23 and +20 fielding runs. That’s almost 3 WINS better than Pastornicky just on defense.

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  10. bstar says:

    Mark,

    This was extremely well-written, insightful, and interesting. You’ve convinced me that Pastornicky just may be a stop-gap for Simmons in a year or two.

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  11. Bravesfan says:

    If I have to believe this story, even though they are of the same age, it seems that an average player is preferred over excellence. That for me is a bit strange.

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  12. onbir11 says:

    Good read. If Pastornicky turns out to be a Bloomquist/Theriot type, there is certainly value in that in the MLB. Atlanta has begun to value the speed game more than I can remember, so Pastornicky may well maintain a roster spot even when Simmons makes his way up.

    The read about Pastornicky leads me to think he might one day hold the spot Pete Orr maintained for three years in Atlanta. That is, a guy that can come off the bench, play the utility spot, pinch run, and swipe a bag, or pose a scoring threat from first late in games.

    If Simmons is on a nonstop path to Atlanta, I can see Pastornicky working in at second, and possibly becoming a late inning defensive replacement for Uggla in games where Atlanta has the lead.

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