Why I’m Now Team SimmonsPosted: May 30, 2012
The rumors have been flying lately. The latest, and one of the hotter topics going around the internet and twitter (mostly via Mark Bowman), is the possibility of calling up SS Andrelton Simmons to the majors. The Braves shortstop decision was also a hot topic during the spring It was pretty close to a 50/50 split between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons among fans. Even the Braves organization was split, the front office wanted Pastornicky while the on-field coaches wanted Simmons. As we know, Pastornicky won the job.
At the time, this was the correct move. Pastornicky had proven he could hit in the upper minors (2011: AA .299/.345/.414, AAA .365/.407/.413). Simmons also had an impressive slash line in 2011, .311/.358/.408, but did it in High-A. I’m not going to go back in time and break down the debate from Spring Training, but here is a good writeup from Franklin Rabon from Capitol Avenue Club about Simmons in from back in March. It gives a good look back on the situation at the time. Coming out of spring, Pastornicky was the correct move to start at SS for the Braves.
Since then, a lot has changed. This is why I am in favor of giving Simmons a chance in the majors over Pastornicky now. Here are my reasons why.
1. Pastornicky has been pretty bad this season. At the plate he owns a .248/.281/.324 slash line. Some people may look at the average and claim he’s been serviceable for a rookie SS. His .270 wOBA is awful. His wRC+ of 67 is terrible. He has walked 6 times all season, while striking out 27 (.22 K/BB). All these numbers are very sore on the eyes. Braves fans thought Alex Gonzalez was bad at the plate, well Pastornicky has been worse. It doesn’t stop there. His defense has been very poor. We knew he was not a defensive wiz and knew he had limited range and decent arm strength. Tyler is in the top 5 in errors among SS, imagine if he had range and were able to get to more balls. For those who like old school fielding percentage, he is last among SS. For those who like advanced stats (yes, I know, small samples), he is last. For those who judge defense with their eyes, he has been very bad, worse than expected. Being a SS is hard, it is the hardest position between the lines to play defensively. His numbers may bounce back a bit if he were to continue to play, but accumulating a -0.9 fWAR sums up how his season has gone thus far.
2. Simmons has proved he can hit Double-A pitching. He currently holds a slash line of .299/.380/.431, so far better than what Pastornicky put up in Double-A. His .383 wOBA is the highest he has had at any level. This probably wouldn’t continue to hold this level of production, but it is a great sign for those (me), who worried if he could hit in the upper levels. Another positive sign is his 10.2 BB% rate compared to a 9.2 K%. Walking more than you strikeout is always a great sign, especially for a young player.
3. The Braves offense has been great. Yes, they have hit a rough patch in the past two weeks, but that should be expected when Chipper, McCann, Freeman and Ross are all out for extended periods of time. Before the slump/injuries, the Braves had been a top-5 offense in the league, jockeying back and forth for the NL lead in runs scored. Because of the resurgent offense this year, the Braves can afford to take a minor dip in offense from the SS position, which usually produces the least amount of offense anyways. Coming into the season, we were unsure if the lineup would live up to their potential. Now they are getting healthy again and should start to get their offensive production back. This allows the Braves to call Simmons up with out the need of an offensive boost.
4. Simmons defense. For those who are not to familiar, Simmons is an exceptional defender. Scouts grade him with 80 range and 80 defense (FYI, 80 is the highest grade scouts give). When he was at junior college he was clocked at 98 off the mound. It is no secret, he is amazing in the field and showed this in spring training. Some scouts have claimed he would be the best defensive shortstop in the majors is he were to be called up. That is quite impressive accolade and would be a major upgrade over Pastornicky. This is nothing we didn’t know though, it is more of that Pastornicky has been worse that expected, which in a way elevates Simmons defensive value. This would help the Braves pitchers tremendously, and help save runs. A run saved counts just as much as a run scored.
All that being said, it would be nice to give Simmons some time in Triple-A before calling him up, but I think it would be foolish for them to not strongly consider Simmons soon. I would expect Simmons offensive numbers to be below what Pastornicky has shown so far. I think Simmons would have a higher OBP, but he is more prone to an offensive struggle. Pitchers will quickly find the holes in his noticeably long swing. It many not be pretty on the offensive side, but his defense will more than make up for it. I don’t view this as a short-term over reaction to very poor play, I think it is a fair assessment of both players and is currently what is best for the team. This is not to say I’m writing off Pastornicky, just that at the moment Simmons seems to be the better play, and may be for the future. Hopefully the rumors are true on this one and the Braves give Simmons a shot. Consider me on “Team Simmons”, for now.
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UPDATE (11:45 PM): It has been reported that the Braves have called up Andrelton Simmons and have sent Typer Pastornicky to Triple-A.