Andrelton Simmons -seen here tagging Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon - injured his ankle last Tuesday and is unlikely to play until at least midweek. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DL for Simmons?

The decision not to DL a player always perplexes me a bit. Last Tuesday Andrelton Simmons obviously severely sprained his ankle. He’ll need at least a week – likely more- and there’s been talk of a rehab game of some sort. On top of that he’s been carrying a sore shoulder from a diving stop a week before and an accumulation of bumps bruises and strains that all players have this time of year. He hasn’t looked like himself in the field and his second half at the plate has been dismal. So why not DL?

To DL or not to dl, is that the question?

Let’s look at the facts.

  • Since the break Simba’s slash –.145/.230/.200/.430 – is worse than that of Gerald Laird, Ryan Doumit, and the current worst hitter in baseball B.J. Upton.
  • Our underpowered, unproductive  bench is now – as it was carrying Dan Uggla – playing a man short.
  • We are in a critical period of the schedule with top teams and facing good pitching

Those things would seem to indicate that we can’t afford to be at less than our best and the available alternatives aren’t our best

The crew

The defacto replacement – Ramiro Pena – is okay for an inning or two or even a game or two but  he’s not an everyday shortstop or a good hitter.  Infielder/utility man Philip Gosselin has 21 games at shortstop – 20 this season – but that’s not his best position.  New arrival Emilio Bonifacio last played short regularly in 2011 but he is a good hitter with major league experience at short and  if playing a bench player is the option, he’s the one to choose. At least Boni will hit and get on base more often.

It’s hard to understand how putting Simba on the DL to allow him to fully recover and reinforcing the bench with a call up is a bad thing. Yet the Braves – like all major league teams – resist these things even when there appears to be no apparent reason. When the Braves’ Skipper was asked about Simba going on the DL in the Bowman piece he tossed a lot of cliches at us.

“It’s one of those injuries where 15 days might be too much, but six might be enough,” Gonzalez said. “If we can avoid those 15 days with him, I would like to take a shot at it. There is going to be a lot of communication going on, from him telling us he is getting better and the doctors saying he’s getting better. I don’t see him [playing] this weekend.”

There’s so much double speak and odd reasoning  going on there – Fredi isn’t the slickest communicator particularly when asked to respond extemporaneously – but he essentially said he would rather play a man short for a week or ten days and hope that Simmons can recover enough to play without being in pain than give him 15 days  to recover more completely. Implicit in that is an acceptance of substandard defense at SS and a short bench.

This mindset is based on the inaccurate belief myth that 80% of Simba is better than 100% of the alternative. If you have a major league  player available that position is not supported by statistics or even the old fashioned eye test. I can see it for a bruise or a back spasm but for a shortstop with immense future value to the Braves that’s already carrying leg or arm injuries, pushing him back on the field before he has time to fully recover (at 80%) increases the risk of a  worse injury and potentially endangers his career.

Aside from that the Braves bench is at best mediocre and removing one player – even a minimally effective player – from it makes it just plain awful.  This whole process makes zero sense when you have options that cost nothing waiting in the wings.

Rising stars and others.

The options available vary from tried to top prospects. Let’s eliminate Tyler Pastornicky immediately, he’s had his chance and never been what he’s supposed to be. I love Rev’s attitude and approach but he’s a utility man at best these days.

Elmer Reyes

The Braves signed Elmer Reyes in 2009 and following his rookie campaign BA ranked him the Braves number 21 prospect. Their scouting report  following that season (subscription required) evaluated him like this.

“. . .He’s a smooth defender who has the arm strength to play shortstop, along with a quick release. He has a quick first step with soft hands and consistently makes plays. At the plate, Reyes has surprising power for his size, with a good approach and the ability to put the barrel on the ball.”

Since then he’s moved steadily through the system but the Braves moved him to second base. Last year found him back at SS in Pearl because Tommy La Stella was there and this year he’s playing short for Gwinnett. So far this season he’s played well and put up a slash of .278/.321/.421/.744 with 10 doubles and 2 home runs. Reyes isn’t a speedster never stealing more than a handful of bases a year.

Jose Peraza is a natural shortstop who plays superb defense. According to Baseball America’s preseason notes (subscription required) “. . .His plus baseball instincts make his above-average range and plus speed even better. His hands are soft and consistent, and he has a quick release that makes up for average arm strength.”   They expected him to start at Lynchburg this season and he did but 66 games later he was in Pearl playing AA ball.

He made the transition from A to AA without missing a beat at the plate, following his .342/.365/.454/.819 High A line with a .335/.361/.426/.787 AA line. BA’s evaluation went on to describe his speed like this. “Peraza’s game is centered on tremendous body control. He gets great jumps on the bases as well as in the field and has the ability to go from full speed to immediate standstill.”  He’s made that speed work on the bases at all levels stealing 35 out of 42 attempts in 66 games at Lynchburg and 25 of 32 attempts in 41 games at Pearl.

Those numbers and that performance propelled him past Jason Hursh, Christian Bethancourt and Lucas Sims to be the Braves’ No. 1 overall prospect, While Peraza might not remain a shortstop considering the extension given to Andrelton Simmons, he’s currently playing the position well and has a bat that like that of La Stella, likely translates smoothly to the majors.

This morning Mark Bowman updated Andrelton Simmons’ injury status and opined that Jose Peraza could be called up if the injury isn’t resolved soon.

“: . . (Simmons) walked through the Braves’ clubhouse late Friday afternoon, he was wearing an air cast on his left ankle and displaying a slight limp. . . .they will wait a few more days with the hope of avoiding having to place the shortstop on the 15-day disabled list. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated that a decision will likely be made by at least Monday.  . .(if he is DL’d) they might promote highly regarded prospect Jose Peraza from Double-A Mississippi to serve as the starting shortstop for at least a week.”

With injury replacements available who have a better glove better than any of the bench alternatives and one with a bat that’s hit at every level along with speed to confound opposing pitchers on the base paths, the question becomes why are we not giving one of them a shot?

Roster ruminations

Reyes is already on the 40 man roster and he Braves have a vacancy so there is space for Peraza. Starting either player’s arbitration clock shouldn’t be a concern as the call up would likely last 10 days or less. Adding Peraza to the 40 man changes some minor things in the long term but nothing that’s a real concern for talent like his. Besides, there are names on that roster that could be removed and no one one notice anyway.

Exposing him before he’s ready

Some are concerned that calling players up too soon may be a bad thing. I’m vocal about not blooding pitchers too early or hitters that haven’t shown they can hit instead of slug. This about solidifying middle infield defense for 10 games or so and I don’t see how that’s a problem.

What if the player does so well he sticks?  That’s bad thing because . . .? If a player belongs then he belongs and should stay. If that happens someone has to go of course but I suspect Ramiro Pena is a tradable asset – the Giants come to mind – but I really don’t believe 40 or so at bats would convince the Braves to keep a player up. The minor league season ends in a few weeks and if a player did stay up that would make him available for the post season roster should Atlanta stumble into reach one of those spots. That in itself is a good reason to give it a shot.

That’s A Wrap

There’s a lot of babble about doing away with old ideas, moving runners , pitcher wins and the like. The old idea I’d like to see dumped is the 80% of an injured player is better than the alternative. A player can either play or he can’t. If he’s too injured to play for more than a game or two put the man on the DL

The risks involved in playing Simba too soon in a season where honesty requires we admit that Braves championship dreams are as realistic as seeing snow today in Bermuda, making risks unnecessary.

If however you want the Braves to have the best chance to win now and stumble into an extra game or five, a real shortstop is my preference. Some would use Reyes,  already on the 40 man and playing well. However Peraza who quickly passed Reyes as a prospect, adds a new dimension to the lineup and might energize a fan base that’s tired of  the current malaise.  Waiting until September to get a look at him is the safe predictable, option and that’s what current Braves leadership always chooses.  The time for change in this organization is near, why not start now?

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Tags: Disabled List Dl Injury Update

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