by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There wasn’t much expected from the Braves’ Andrelton Simmons heading into 2013. At 23-years old and having made the jump from Double-A directly to the Majors it was understandable, but he caught everyone off guard with the following line:
606 At Bats
.248 Batting Average (150 Hits)
17 Home Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.296 On Base Percentage
.396 Slugging Percentage
Where did that power come from? Between Double-A and the Majors in 2012 he hit just 6 HR, so it truly was an unexpected jump. His HR/FB was actually consistent in the Majors (7.5% in ’12 vs. 7.9% in’13), he simply put more balls in the air (39.1%). We can argue if that is a good or bad thing, but it gives the potential that he can at least come reasonably close to replicating the power.
Maybe he’s not a 20 HR threat, though the fact that he plays in a hitter’s ballpark yet only had 5 HR at home could help the argument. It’s safe to expect 10-15, with anything more being a bonus.
The bigger question, though, is his average. You would think he had the makeup of a strong average hitter, after posting an 18.5% line drive rate (19.3% in the second half) and 8.4% strikeout rate. The contact is something he’s always featured, and that definitely puts him in a good position. However, he needs to reduce the popups if he really wants to thrive.
Last season he posted a whopping 17.8% popup rate, the highest mark in the league. We have to hope that with age and experience he can reduce that to a much more palatable level. If he can make the necessary adjustments, the average is going to rise with it.
Long-term he could profile as a .300 hitter, though chances are he won’t get there this season.
The other question is where he is going to hit in the Braves’ lineup. He has some speed (26 SB in the minors in 2011) and has the potential to chip in 10-12 this season. If the popup problem is corrected, he profiles as the perfect #2 hitter for Atlanta, allowing guys like Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman to slide down into the middle if the lineup.
With Jason Heyward hitting leadoff, it’s definitely something Atlanta needs to consider. Otherwise, with your top hitters at 1-4, the lineup starts to look awfully weak at the bottom.
You put it all together and get the following 2014 projection:
.290 (174-600), 15 HR, 60 RBI, 80 R, 10 SB, .300 BABIP, .342 OBP, .435 SLG
Yes, there’s risk when it comes to Simmons but there is also a lot of potential reward. Consider him a Top 10 option, even with an expected power regression, and one of the better options in the league.
Source – Fangraphs
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: