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.



Print This Post



Jack Moore’s work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you’re willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
stan
Guest
stan

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

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

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
Guest
Pirates Hurdles

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

Pitnick
Guest
Pitnick

But he isn’t a below average hitter…

Antonio bananas
Guest
Antonio bananas

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
Guest
Dave

Agreed.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles

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
Guest
Tomcat

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

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

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

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
Guest
jim

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

Carry On My Heyward Son
Guest
Carry On My Heyward Son

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.

wpDiscuz