Atlanta Braves shortstop and Curacao native Andrelton Simmons, the Braves 2nd round pick in 2010, has been called up to the major leagues to replace the struggling Tyler Pastornicky. Simmons will join the team Friday following today’s scheduled off day. Simmons was ranked fourth on the Braves Top 10 prospects entering the 2012 season by Baseball America and the 92nd best prospect in all of baseball. Simmons nearly beat out Pastornicky, another Top 10 Braves prospect, for the starting gig in spring training but was sent to AA-Mississippi to start the season where he hit .292/.372/.421 over 171 at-bats. With his demotion Pastornicky will be assigned to AAA-Gwinnett where he can refine his approach at the plate and work on his defense. He posted a .248/.281/.324 slash line along with seven errors and a 17.2K% and a dismal 3.8BB% which contributed to his weak OBP and while a member of the Braves was considered the worst fielding shortstop in the ML with a -10.0 UZR and a -45.5 UZR/150. Both Pastornicky and Simmons are 22 years old but Simmons has the higher overall ceiling as he combines strong defense with excellent plate discipline and above average contact. Through 927 professional at-bats Simmons has a very respectable .299/.352/.397 with a career .967 Fld% and looks to be the Braves long-term choice for shortstop.
The Braves have indicated that the move was made for defensive purposes but it will be interesting to see how Simmons bat will play at the ML level as he has a reputation as a free swinger. Certainly the Braves are choosing to highlight his defensive acumen as a way to take the pressure off of his young bat and rightfully so as he has limited experience at the higher levels. Simmons has dealt with criticism of his bat at every stop thus far in his professional career and he has exceeded all expectations and will look to do so again in Atlanta. In the end Simmons will have his greatest value as a superior defender however if he is able to maintain his strong plate discipline and line drive approach he has the potential to provide an instant spark to the Brave’s lineup. Additionally, Simmons has plus speed which he will be able to utilize to wreak havoc on the base paths and could be an excellent compliment to Michael Bourn as a bottom of the lineup spark for the Braves who will try and work their way out of 4th place in the NL East.