Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons batted .276 with limited power (14 extra-base hits, .356 slugging) as a 20-year-old in the Appalachian League last year. But his high-level hand-eye coordination afforded him grace and range on defense as well as superb contact skills (16-to-14 walk-to-strikeout ratio). Plus, he can really throw, having touched the high 90s off the mound for Western Oklahoma State JC prior to Atlanta selecting him in the second round of the 2010 draft.
Simmons' skills have transferred to the Carolina League this year, where he has thrived after a two-level jump to high Class A. He's batting .300/.336/.387 through 413 at-bats after a three-hit, seven-RBI performance yesterday for Lynchburg against Kinston. Simmons leads the CL in hits (124) and strikeout rate (one every 12.3 plate appearances) while ranking second in the batting race.
Among Carolina League shortstops, none has handled more chances than Simmons (532) or turned more double plays (72). He has eight fewer assists than Salem's Derrik Gibson.
Around The Minors
• New Padres lefty Robbie Erlin allowed his first run for Double-A San Antonio on a solo shot to Frisco's Mike Bianucci. But Erlin was just about perfect otherwise, allowing two hits in six innings while striking out nine and walking none. For the Missions, he's run up a 0.75 ERA and 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 innings.
• The Indians' Cord Phelps made a dozen starts for Cleveland in June and July but hit just .196. He's resumed his hot hitting with his return to Triple-A Columbus. He went 4-for-4 yesterday with a double (20), a triple (three) and two runs scored. Since the all-star break, Phelps has batted .347/.422/.537 with four homers in 95 at-bats.
• Angels second baseman Taylor Lindsey connected for a homer (eight), two doubles (16) and two RBIs in going 3-for-5 for Rookie-level Orem. The 2010 supplemental pick leads the Pioneer League in doubles, hits (60), extra-base hits (27), runs scored (43) and slugging (.646).
• Now that Paul Goldschmidt is in the big leagues, high Class A Stockton center fielder Michael Choice has to be considered among the favorites to win the minor league home run crown. He hit 10 in July and now has 28 on the year after going deep yesterday in a 2-for-3 showing. Choice also has the benefit of the California League, unlike his primary challengers like Ian Gac (Carolina), Bryan LaHair and Jai Miller (Pacific Coast), Tim Wheeler and Kody Hinze (Texas) and Ryan Lavarnway and Jorge Vazquez (International).
• High Class A Charlotte shortstop Hak-Ju Lee raised his average to .316 through 393 at-bats with a 2-for-4 day that included his fourth home run of the year. The Rays have to be impressed by Lee's range of skills, which include speed (28 steals in 42 attempts), power (27 doubles plus triples, .443 slugging) and on-base skills (.389 OBP, 42 walks).
• Not even a bump to Triple-A has slowed Rays catcher/left fielder Stephen Vogt. He went 3-for-5 for Durham yesterday, and he's batted 15-for-38 (.395) with two homers and six doubles in nine games for the Bulls.
• High Class A Dunedin righty Drew Hutchison turned in his fifth consecutive start totaling six innings with two or fewer runs allowed. He struck out five and walked no Tampa batters yesterday in tossing six shutout, one-hit innings. The full extent of Hutchison's quality starts: 30 innings, 36 strikeouts, three walks (plus two hit batters), 19 hits, one home run allowed, 1.50 ERA.
• The Phillies designated righty Scott Mathieson for assignment last week, and because it was the second time he had been exposed to the process he could have opted for free agency. He elected not to, and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. (He will qualify for minor league free agency in November if he's not added back to the 40-man before then.) Used primarily as a reliever in recent years, Mathieson started yesterday and went seven solid innings for the IronPigs against Norfolk, allowing one run on four hits. In seven starts he's been mostly effective, going 1-1, 2.56 with 41 whiffs in 31 2/3 innings, albeit with 16 walks.
Minor League Power Rankings
Which full-season minor league team has the best winning percentage? Which is the best club in Triple-A? How about the Carolina League? And which team has the minors' worst run differential? The most runs scored? The best record over the past 30 games?
The answers are now just a mouse click away: San Antonio (.675); Columbus (74-42, .638); Frederick (67-45, .598); High Desert (-166 runs); Reno (822 runs); and a two-way tie between Mobile and Quad Cities (both 21-9).
Introducing a new feature at Baseball America.com: the Minor League Power Rankings. Now you can sort all 120 full-season teams by wins, losses, winning percentage, runs scored, runs allowed, run differential and record in the last 30 games. You can even filter results by classification or league.
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