Atlanta Braves 2021: Dansby Swanson or Andrelton Simmons?

The Atlanta Braves have been solid at shortstop: who should they choose in 2021?

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Andrelton Simmons as a member of the Atlanta Braves (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

With Andrelton Simmons set to be a free agent after this season, some Atlanta Braves fans find themselves asking whether or not they should pursue Simba in free agency. Let's take a quick look at how this may play out.

Atlanta Braves - Andrelton Simmons

Simmons is one of the best defensive shortstops I've... scratch that. That's too specific. Andrelton Simmons is one of the greatest players to wear a glove that I've ever seen.  It was almost a daily occasion that he would drop jaws. It seemed like the only way to keep him from making a highlight play on defense was on travel days.

He is the sorcerer of runs saved. I will forever remember him as a legend. That's why Braves fans are even curious about the possibility of being reunited with him in 2021... they remember.

Atlanta Braves - Dansby Swanson

Dansby Swanson is the golden boy of the current group. He was the first overall pick in 2015. We love his fire, passion, his excellent defense, clutch hits, and his pedigree. We won't forget his performance in the postseason last year.

The kid was fulfilling the hype last season before injuries severely hampered his second half. He was on pace for an MVP-type season in the first half. Please remember his stats.

Dansby Swanson 2019 Stats:

Dansby hit .270/.330/.493 with 17 HR, 19 2B, 57 RBI, and 58 R in just 341 at-bats. The bat was coming alive in prolific fashion.

Defensively, he took a step back last season, but 2018's Gold-Glove-nominated-year showed that he's not a slouch on the field.  We'll get to that...

Atlanta Braves - Comparing The Gloves: Andrelton Simmons

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Andrelton Simmons of the Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

You don't need stats to tell you that Simmons is one of the best in the game on defense, but we'll use a few. Last season, he placed in the 99th percentile in outs above average. Simmons has found himself in the top 15 in MVP voting four times since 2014. This attention is nearly all due to his defensive prowess.

If you aren't terribly familiar with defensive runs saved, it uses several metrics to attempt to place a number of runs saved by a player over the average player at his position. So, Simmons's 12 defensive-runs saved last season does not mean he saved 12, it means he saved 12 more than the average shortstop in the league.

As I'm sure you are well aware, the average major-league shortstop is pretty incredible. Simmons seems like he could make a play on any ball to the left side of the field. He can jump and throw a 97-mph bullet with the flick of a wrist.

Simmons has saved an astonishing 193 runs above average since 2012.

  • 2012 - 19 DRS in 49 games. He was on pace for 54 runs saved above average over 1,200 innings.
  • Since 2003 (when they began tracking DRS) Simmons has 109 more defensive-runs saved than second place at the shortstop position. The difference between Simmons and second-place J.J. Hardy is 25 more than J.J. Hardy's 84.  Let that sink in.
  • Simmons has the best season in terms of DRS by a shortstop ever recorded with 40 in 2017. He has three of the top six seasons ever.
  • He has six of the top 23 seasons of all time at the position.

Atlanta Braves - Comparing The Gloves: Dansby Swanson

On the flipside, Swanson is no Simmons with the leather. However, he is no slouch. Two seasons ago he logged 10 DRS and finished with two last season. Anything above zero means he was above average among major-league shortstops.

You know by watching him that he passes the eye test. Dansby finished in the 80th percentile in outs above average.

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Atlanta Braves - Comparing the Bats: Andrelton Simmons

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Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Simmons never moved the needle much with the lumber. The one thing he's always been good at is not striking out. It doesn't matter a whole lot if you continuously hit softly into easy outs, which is what he does.

While ranking in the top 100th-percentile in (lowest) K% he ranks in the bottom 3rd percentile in barrel %, bottom 4th percentile in slugging, bottom 22nd percentile in hard-hit%, bottom 28th percentile in exit velocity, and bottom 2nd in xwOBA.

The bottom line, he doesn't offer much with the bat.

Atlanta Braves - Comparing the Bats: Dansby Swanson

The bat is the difference-maker for Swanson. Last season he was in the top 65th percentile or higher in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, and barrel percentage. He was also in the 88th percentile in sprint speed.

Atlanta Braves 2021 Conclusion

My choice is Swanson. Without knowing the type of season he is going to put forth in 2020 (assuming we get some sort of a season) the upside with his bat is too good to pass up. He showed he has 30+ homer potential last season. He's above-average with the glove and he's younger than Simmons.

As Simmons ages, you have to imagine his defensive skills will. For what it's worth, last season was the lowest DRS he's had in a season, despite the fact that it was still good for second-best in the American League.

If the glove begins to deteriorate, you have to think the bat won't be improving. Simmons appears to be on an upward trajectory and has a ceiling much higher than a defensive specialist.

Next: Braves: Top 5 First-Round Draft Picks

Don't take that the wrong way. I'm not knocking Simmons. It was an absolute honor to be able to watch him night-in, night-out when he was with the Braves. That time has passed.