Andrelton Simmons Assigned to Minors

It appears as though, after a spring’s worth of uncertainty, the Atlanta Braves have decided on an Opening Day shortstop, with the news this afternoon (courtesy David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution) that the club has assigned defensive wunderkind Andrelton Simmons to minor-league camp, leaving Tyler Pastornicky with the job.

To which level, precisely, Simmons has been sent remains to be seen, but there are options available to the Braves: given his age (22) and previous high level (High-A Lynchburg), an assigment to Double-A wouldn’t (nor should it) be regarded as a slight to Simmons’ skill level or potential. There’s certainly reason to believe that — aside from whatever he showed the coaching staff and front office this spring — that Pastornicky’s experience in the high minors (672 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A) was instrumental in helping him to secure the starting spot to break camp. There’s also reason to believe that exposure to more advanced pitching would help Simmons’ refine his offensive game.

So, even if Simmons were to spend the entirety of 2012 in the minors, it likely wouldn’t represent any kind of misstep on the part of the Braves.

That said, with Simmons, there are three points always to consider:

1. Defense is his primary skill.

2. His defensive skill — even if coupled with merely replacement-level offense — probably makes him an average major leaguer right now.

3. Defense peaks earlier than other skills — probably around 25 or so.

In light of the facts, it’s probably fair to say that the window on Andrelton Simmons’ major-league career is a slightly different one than we see for many prospects, with the beginning of his peak set to arrive as soon as now. Because a lot of his value is derived from defensive play — that, coupled with the fact that his offensive ceiling is probably limited by a lack of power upside — Simmons will likely never be much more valuable than he will by, say, the middle or end of the 2012 season.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Nitram Odarp
Nitram Odarp

I appreciate the article, but I disagree with a few of the statements. First, I don’t think Simmons is really subject to the same sort defensive aging curve as your normal defensive SS because of both his height/build and his arm. One of the reasons defense peaks early is because guys tend to get bigger as they age. That’s less of a problem for Simmons and his 6’2″ frame than it is for the average SS. The guy could put on another 10-15 pounds and still remain extremely skinny. Second, it’s range, not arm, that leads to earlier defensive fall off. A guy with an 80 arm should be expected to have a flatter defensive aging curve, because he can still remain a very good defensive SS even if his range drops off.

I would also disagree with the assessment that Simmons’ offensive ceiling is limited. The guys is less than 2 year removed from playing in junior college. While age relative to league may be more important, don’t discount experience relative to league either. I don’t think there is any reason to think Simmons is close to a finished product as an offensive player. I’m not sure where you’re getting the lack of power upside for Simmons either. Like I mentioned above, he’s 6’2″ and extremely skinny, so he has the frame to add muscle without costing himself much range. Scouts have also noted his quick wrists and good bat speed. If you’ve watched him hit this spring, you know he’s not a slap hitter by any means either. The guy has a pretty aggressive swing up their. He’s never going to be a good power hitter or anything, but I don’t think there is any reason to think an ISO in the .120-.150 is out of the question in his prime.