Andrelton Simmons should feel confident entering the 2013 season knowing his future will be with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves wouldn’t play with the idea of trading the 23-year-old shortstop to the Arizona Diamondbacks as part of a package to acquire Justin Upton. After watching Martin Prado last year and seeing Upton in spring training this year, Simmons has to have a confidence boost as he enters the year as the starting shortstop.
2012 Recap: Simmons began the year at Double-A Mississippi after Tyler Pastornicky initially won the starting shortstop job with the MLB squad. However, Pastornicky struggled mightily in the field which opened the door for Simmons. He made his debut on June 2 against the Washington Nationals and got his first career hit the next night. The only thing that slowed his emergence down was a hand injury that caused him to miss two months of action. Despite the setback, he posted a .289 batting average in 49 games and was spectacular with the glove. More importantly, he proved he was capable of becoming the starting shortstop for the foreseeable future.
2013 Outlook: The losses of Michael Bourn and Prado have given way to Simmons assuming a new role – leadoff hitter. That’s added pressure for a young player, but the even-keeled Simmons has the maturity to handle it. Here’s a quote from Simmons following his first career start to get an understanding of his personality. “It was comfortable. The view was a bit different, with all the people in the back, but pretty much it was another game.” That’s how he’ll view his new role: a little different but you still have to see the ball and hit the ball.
The maturity Simmons displays is impressive for a young guy, but don’t forget that he has great ability as well. He is a career .299 hitter with a .352 on-base percentage and stole 54 bases in 237 games at the minor league level. Digging deeper, he excels at making contact – something Bourn struggled with last season. According to FanGraphs, his O-Contact (72.1), Z-Contact (94.3) and Contact (87.5) percentages in 2012 were all better than Bourn (57.7, 86.3, 78.4). Hitting for contact combined with his good speed will allow him to get some infield hits and find holes in the infield.
Defensively, there’s no reason he can’t compete for a Gold Glove this year. His 2012 advanced fielding statistics were better than last year’s winner, Jimmy Rollins. His fielding percentage (.987), ultimate zone rating (10.4) and UZR/150 (31.6) are all higher than Rollins (.978, 4.4, 4.9). If you just go by the eyeball test, his smooth mechanics, lively arm and great range stick out. If he stays healthy, he should garner strong consideration for a Gold Glove.
Judging by his short time in Atlanta and his minor league career, fans can expect him to be a .270-.280 contact hitter and steal 10-15 bases. On defense, he will make tough plays look routine and provide the flashy “Web Gem” moments. Braves’ fans can expect a Gold-Glove caliber season from Simmons in the field and a solid leadoff hitter. I think fans and the organization will be pleased when looking back at Simmons’ 2013 season.