Andrelton Simmons had a special season in 2013. His bat was solid, and that’s all we care about in the fantasy game, but before I get to his exploits at the dish and what we should be expecting from him in 2014, I have to mention his glove.
The Braves’ shortstop, Simmons had one of the greatest fielding seasons in the history of baseball. According to BaseballReference, Simmons had the 8th best WAR in the game in 2013. As you will soon see, it’s not because he went all Troy Tulowitzki on pitchers, it was for that glove. Simmons lead the NL in assists (499) and putouts (240). He was also first in Range Factor (4.74) and first in Total Zone Runs (30). He had 40 more assists than anyone else. He was the only infielder with a Total Zone Runs mark above 22. He was just tremendous (for more have fun clicking on all the advanced measures that you can find over at Fangraphs). Now on to what you care about in fantasy baseball…
2013 numbers: .248-17-59-76-6
As raw totals, those aren’t bad for a middle infield option in mixed leagues.
Only two full-time shortstops in the NL had more homers – Troy Tulowitzki (25) & Ian Desmond (20).
His total of 59 RBIs was 8th best in baseball for a full-time shortstop.
His total of 76 runs scored was third in baseball for full-time shortstops.
Now the downside.
Simmons hit .248. That’s just not going to cut it. He also hit, if we can call it that, .206 with RISP and .164 with RISP and two outs. Clutch he was not in 2013. He also really struggled against lefties with a mere .216 mark over 139 at-bats. Luckily his defense is so good that he’s just not going to come out of the lineup no matter who is on the hill. He does have some speed, and it’s likely that his .247 BABIP mark will improve, but this is still a .270ish hitter if you just look at his profile. A plus is that his contact rate is fantastic, he only struck out 55 times on the season leading to an 87.5 percent contract rate (the league average is about 79 percent). Too bad he doesn’t walk at all as his total of 40 walks led to a mere .296 OBP. It’s virtually impossible to score 75+ runs year after year if you can’t even get on base at a .300 clip (no player in baseball scored 80 runs in 2013 with less than a .302 OBP – Alfonso Soriano was at .302. To be fair, the only reason he got to 80 runs was because he hit 34 homers to knock himself in). The only reason that Simmons was able to get there this season, to 75 runs scored, was because the Braves just didn’t have a consistent option they could turn to at the top of the order. Therefore Simmons hit leadoff 64 times in 2013. That’s an awful match for his skill set, and just look at the horrific production he threw up there as the man at the top of the order: .219/.256/.332. Horrendous. He should be batting 7th or 8th where ht spent 57 games in 2013. Pay close attention to where he’s slotted to hit in 2014 as it will have a huge impact on his fantasy value.
Will the power improve in 2014? It’s possible but I would say it’s unlikely. Simmons hit six homers in 930 minor league at-bats before going deep three times in 166 at-bats as a rookie. So why did his homer rate go up in 2013? Well it wasn’t because of his HR/F rate which only went up 0.4 to 7.9 percent. The reason it went up was that his 56 percent ground ball rate fell to 42.4 percent last season. Consequently his fly ball rate went from 27 to 39 percent. That’s only five percentage above the league average so it’s not a huge rate, but during his minor league career his fly ball rate was barely over 25 percent so I’m going to need more than one season of data to say that this approach is legit for Simmons.
As I noted he has nice speed, he stole 26 bags in High-A ball in 2011, but he’s never been a very discerning runner with 61 steals and 29 caught stealing, good for a 67 percent rate which is barely acceptable (in truth it really isn’t), during his professional career.
Simmons is a great defender but he’s no more than a decent hitter at this stage of his development. He has holes in his offensive game, he’s extremely inefficient, and that has to cast doubt on his ability to improve upon his production from 2013. He’s best drafted as a middle infield option in mixed leagues, though if you get “stuck” with him as your starter at shortstop it’s not like that would be a deathblow to your fantasy aspirations in 2014.
By Ray Flowers