What if I told you that there was a shortstop who is being drafted in the 16th round that could provide a top-10 return? What if I told you that this shortstop happens to play in one of the best lineups in baseball?
What if I told you that this wasn’t actually a preview for ESPN’s 30 For 30 series?
The shortstop position isn’t exactly the deepest in fantasy baseball from year to year. In fact, in 2013, only one shortstop (Segura) ranked inside the top-43 players on ESPN’s Player Rater. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be had. You just have to look in the right places.
You know, like Atlanta.
The Braves have plenty of stars in their lineup already. Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, to name a few. However, they have a budding superstar manning the infield. Andrelton Simmons showed flashes of brilliance last season, helping the Braves win their division. However, he also caught the eye of fantasy owners, as his 14th rating on the Player Rater among shorstops isn’t ground-breaking, but Simmons is going to be a good one for years to come, folks. Let’s take a look.
Simmons in 2013
Fantasy owners probably wish their leagues rewarded points to defensive plays. If that were the case, Simmons would be a no-brainer first round draft pick. The guy easily possesses one of the best gloves in the game today, and while people may overlook that because it doesn’t matter for fantasy, think again. His elite glove keeps him in the lineup on a day-to-day basis, and his growth at the plate will keep him in fantasy circles, too.
Not exactly massive numbers, but let’s take a closer look.
First of all, 11 of his 17 homers occurred from July 1 forward, meaning that he did something to improve his pop. He also batted .255 with nine home runs and 16 doubles after the All-Star break, compared to .243/8/11 before the break. During that span, Simmons also improved on his walk rate, while also increasing his line drive percentage. He seemed to hint towards overall growth as the season progressed, exciting fantasy owners like myself. In 2013, Simmons also improved his plate discipline, swinging at less pitches landing outside of the strike zone (28.6%), while also lowering his swinging strike percentage to 5.6% (5.9 in 2012). This guy has legitimate 20-home run potential, which is rare nowadays among shortstops. Just four players at the position hit 20 homers or more last year (Ramirez, Tulowitzki, Desmond, Hardy). And, after seeing an uptick in doubles and triples from Simmons last year, it’s clear there is some untapped power potential waiting to be released.
Simmons in 2014
That’s the average pick Simmons is being selected in ESPN drafts. He’s currently going after guys like Chase Headley, Alexei Ramirez and Jed Lowrie. He’s the number 12 shortstop coming off the board. I’m sorry, but that is an absolute joke. This guy has legitimate top six or seven upside at his position, potentially higher down the road. I mean, after all, he is still just 24-years old. He also got a bit unlucky last year, too. His .247 BABIP was the third-lowest in all of baseball, as he flirted with Dan Uggla territory. And let’s not forget that this guy did bat .289 in 2012, and I think he is more of a .280 batter than what he showed a season ago.
At the moment, Simmons looks like he’ll be batting in the six spot, while Heyward leads off. Nothing against Heyward (I love him), but he isn’t exactly your prototypical leadoff guy. Simmons could very well find himself leading off as the season progresses, which would be great for his fantasy value. The Braves have a very powerful lineup, and scored the 13th-most runs last year. With guys like Freeman and Upton behind him, Simmons would cross home plate very often if he indeed took the number one spot in the lineup.
Whether you see it or not, Simmons is a top-10 fantasy shortstop. It’s time he starts being drafted as such.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.