Prospect Preview: Andrelton Simmons

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (67) hits a ground ball in the third inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

There's been a lot of talk about the Atlanta Braves shortstop position this spring, with Tyler Pastornicky seemingly grounding out his way back to Triple-A, and Andrelton Simmons flashing some serious leather. There seems to be a clamor for the Braves to break camp with Simmons despite the fact that he has yet to play a game in Double-A. I'm a bit surprised there's been movement for Simmons given that his bat has been just as ineffective as Pastornicky's so far, and that he is actually 3 months older than Pastornicky and has yet to approach Pastornicky's resume in the minors. All this led me to think I should do a prospect preview on Simmons to discuss just what it is that is exciting everyone, and see if I might change my stance that Pastornicky will be a far more useful player this season for both the Braves and prospective fantasy owners.

Andrelton Simmons - SS - Braves - Drafted in the second round out of West Oklahoma Junior College in 2010, many teams liked Simmons more as a pitcher, but Atlanta gave him the opportunity to play the field. Simmons rewarded them by showing off major league ready defensive tools and a developing bat.

It comes as no surprise given his pitching background that his best tool is his rifle of an arm, but he supplements that with remarkable instincts in the field, with Mark Anderson of Fangraphs calling them "border[ing] on other-wordly." Simmons can get to most any ball, and most of his mistakes are due to his confidence that he can make any play in the field, though he made progress in limiting those types of mistakes as the year went on.

As a hitter, Simmons shows some promise, but is underwhelming overall. He did win the Carolina League batting title with a .311 average in 2011, though that came with a paltry 29 walks in 517 at-bats and a .408 slugging percentage. Necessarily, given his lack of walks, Simmons is a contact hitter only striking out 43 times on the season. As evidenced by the slugging percentage, he doesn't have much power, though he does have the ability to turn on a fastball and will show gap power from time to time. He is inefficient as a basestealer, accumulating 26 steals but getting caught an unacceptable 18 times. He's not a burner as a runner, showing only average speed, and lacking the instincts to make his speed a plus on the basepaths.

So what's the verdict? Simmons prospect status is built on his defense, and while he has some potential with the bat, it is hard to see him hitting more than 5-8 homers or 10-12 stolen bases, and he's nowhere near ready to do that now. I understand that Pastornicky has been bad on both sides of the ball this spring, but it's a small sample and he produced at a higher level at a younger age. He doesn't have the ceiling Simmons does, but Simmons isn't close to that ceiling now, and I don't think he reaches it. If the Braves DO go with Simmons, they're accepting a zero on offense in exchange for plus defense, which is something fantasy owners cannot afford to do. If you have him on a team, I'd sell high while there's buzz. In terms of fantasy, a player like Simmons is all sizzle, no steak.

Disagree? Tell me why in the comments.

Follow me on twitter @cdgoldstein

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