Braves NRI In-Depth: Andrelton Simmons

Andrelton Simmons could be one of the best defensive shortstops in the Major Leagues right now.

Despite being drafted by the Braves in the second round of the 2010 draft as a pitcher, Andrelton Simmons had a nice debut season with Rookie level Danville as a shortstop, hitting .276 with a .695 OPS, 11 doubles, 26 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. He followed that up with an excellent 2011 with High A Lynchburg,, winning the Carolina League batting title by hitting .311, and adding a .759 OPS, 35 doubles, 52 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. That season opened some eyes around baseball, as he was named the 65th best prospect in the game by MLB.com.

Simmons' calling card is his phenomenal defense. Wiry and quick, makes good reads and is athletic enough to make plays most other shortstops couldn't dream of attempting. His arm is capable of producing 95mph fastballs off the mound, and he uses it to make lightning fast, accurate throws over to first. He could play defense in the Major Leagues right now and already be one of the best defenders in the game.

He showed himself more than capable with the bat with Lynchburg, though there are concerns for him offensively. He's a pure contact hitter, and while that leads to a low strikeout rate, fanning in 7.5% of his plate appearances, it also leads to a poor walk rate, as he earned a free pass in just 5% of his trips to the plate. He also doesn't offer much in the way of slugging, with just 26% of his hits going for extra bases. Jack Wilson, similar glove-first player, has hit 26% of his career at bats for extra bases, and the epitome of glove first players, Omar Vizquel, has only seen 21% of his hits go for extra bases, while striking out in 9% of his plate appearances and walking in 8.6%. It's easy to envision Simmons being the kind of player Vizquel has been over his career, and if he could come close to providing the .272/.337/.353/.690 slash line the 11 time Gold Glove winner has in his career, Simmons would be an excellent Major Leaguer.

Still relatively new to the game at 22 years old, Simmons' big goal in Spring Training is just to gain experience by spending time with veterans such as Wilson, absorbing all the information and knowledge he possibly can. He'll go to Mississippi to start 2012, looking to refine his game and prove he deserves a shot at the Majors in 2013.

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