Andrelton Simmons is the future for the Braves at shortstop


BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

I might be putting my foot in my mouth when I say defensive phenom Andrelton Simmons will be the next big thing for the Atlanta Braves, but the kid’s glove speaks for itself.

Now, a defensive prospect isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world. However, Braves fans should be excited about what’s in store when it comes to Simmons. The 22-year-old Curacao native will surely razzle and dazzle with his leather better than any Braves shortstop in club history if his bat can keep up with his talented glove, which will be a must if he wishes to stay in the big leagues. Simmons definetely has age on his side. That means his abilities in the batter’s box will improve in time. And if those skills develop as quickly as his defensive ones have in such a short period of time, Simmons just may be the next Ozzie Smith or Derek Jeter type of player.

At this point, you might be thinking I’m making a huge jump with that prediction and you might be right. However, I have to believe in this guy after what his glove showed us in the Minor Leagues. Instead of struggling as he made his way up the ranks, Simmons’ defense only got better. In just a handful of games at the rookie-league level, he honed a .974 fielding percentage. Once Simmons had a full season of minor league ball under his belt in Single-A Lynchburg, he digressed slightly, securing a .958 fielding percentage, but the best was yet to come. This season, Simmons made waves throughout Atlanta’s organzation and even challenged recently demoted shortstop Tyler Pastornicky for the big league gig as the Braves’ every day shortstop. And although Simmons didn’t win the job, he didn’t stay in the minors for long. Maybe that’s because he was phenomenal in the filed for Double-A Mississippi where committed just four errors in 46 games while holding down a .983 fielding percentage. Can you say big league ready?

Let’s pretend those minor league numbers would actually be comparable to the fielding percentages of some of the top shortstops in Major League Baseball. Only four major leaguers — Troy Tulowitski, Jhonny Peralta, Jimmy Rollins and J.J. Hardy — put up better fielding percentages than .983 in 2011. So one has to believe if Simmons’ glove can stay hot, he could be an elite defensive shortstop from the get-go, which is exactly what Atlanta is praying for after seeing Pastornicky basically flop. Right before being sent down to the minors, Pastronicky, who is also 22, committed seven errors and owned the worst fielding percentage of all major league shortstops. Pastornicky’s bat wasn’t horrible (.248 batting average, eight extra-base hits, one homer, a .281 on-base percentage and two stolen bases in 44 games for the Braves), but the team couldn’t wait for his defense to turn around.

So now it will be Simmons’ turn and it surely won’t be his glove that will cost him the job. His bat is still a big question mark, though. I have to give him some credit after he won the Carolina League batting title last season with a .311 clip, but his numbers in Double-A (.292 batting average with 14 extra base hits, three home runs, a .372 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases) don’t exactly make me want to go out an buy his jersey right away. However, I must say I am very excited to see how this young man will pan out in the big leagues. After all, he was clocked at 98 MPH as a junior college closer and was picked in the second round by the Braves in 2010 for a reason. Now it’s time to see if this defensive whiz can become the complete package.

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