During the young years of everyone’s baseball career, the shortstop position is usually handled by the kid with the most talent both offensively and defensively on the team. Then through time the shortstop position is played by a leader figure and the guy with the best glove and great arm (not in all cases). A team would be content with their shortstop having a privileged glove and strong arm but if they can hit, that player becomes elite. And what the Atlanta Braves have in Andrelton Simmons is something special.
The 23-year-old shortstop will play a huge role in the 2013 Atlanta Braves season. Not only will he play the key positional role of the shortstop but he will also bat leadoff in front of a very talented lineup. To simply get on base will be a key factor for his success this season.
At this time last year, Simmons was battling Tyler Pastornicky in spring training for the opening day starting shortstop position. Pastornicky would eventually beat him out for the opening day role but it wouldn’t take long in the season before Simmons relieved him. On June 2nd, 52 games into the 2012 season, Simmons started his first regular season game against the Washington Nationals. For the next month, the Braves saw greatness right in front of them but then while sliding head first into 2nd, Simmons broke his finger. After a two-month hiatus, everyone was excited to see him back in the lineup. He finished the season playing 49 games with a respectable .289 batting average and .335 on base percentage. The offense was the plus but his defense was what everyone was talking about as he only made three errors in those 49 games with a .987 fielding percentage.
So far this spring, Simmons has already gained experience in the leadoff job playing in the World Baseball Classic for the Netherlands. He helped his country on a Cinderella run to the semifinals before losing to the Dominican Republic. Simmons hit .333 (10-30) with three doubles and blasting two home runs. The occasional home run is always beneficial but hopefully Simmons won’t get in the habit of trying to hit the ball out (don’t think he will).
Braves County is eager to start the season and see this young man on the field. It seems like every game “Simba” does something spectacular. Simmons plays with passion and energizes everyone on the team as well as the fans. He should become a house hold name outside of Braves nation during this season with his defensive excellence, offensive skills and speed in the field and on the base paths. The Braves seemed to have been searching for a long-term answer at shortstop ever since Rafael Furcal left and it’s reassuring to know Andrelton Simmons could potentially be the answer to the all the future questions.
*2011 Stats from Double-A Lynchburg