Braves' Simmons Puts On Spring Showcase
KISSIMMEE, FLA.—Those who saw Andrelton Simmons play regularly in 2011 knew he would create a buzz when he took the field as a non-roster invitee in spring training. The second-round pick from 2010 accomplished that feat and more, leaving some observers believing he could make the jump from Class A to the big leagues.
"I'd make him the starting shortstop right now," a National League scout said. "He can play defense in the big leagues and play it well, and he has a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. He's an exciting kid."
Simmons, 22, got more playing time than expected due to an injury that sidelined veteran Jack Wilson. Rookie Tyler Pastornicky had been steady while showing he's ready to step in as the everyday shortstop, but Simmons took some of the spotlight when given the opportunity.
"When I played my first game with the major leaguers, I was a little nervous," said Simmons, who had two hits, including a triple, in his first five at-bats. "But once I got that first ground ball at shortstop and had my first at-bat, I felt right at home. It felt normal, and everything has gone well from that point."
Simmons won the high Class A Carolina League batting title with a .311 norm in 2011, his first full season, while ranking second with 35 doubles. Circuit managers also tabbed Simmons as the best defensive infielder, the strongest infield arm and the most exciting player in the league.
"Last year I started the season off not doing very well," said Simmons, a second-round pick out of Western Oklahoma State JC in 2010, who hit .304 in the first half after batting .286 in April. "I was focusing a lot on my hitting and for some reason it took me a while to calm down. Over time I was able to take what the coaches were telling me and put it to use and do well. It really came down to simplifying things, and from there I started to take off at the plate."
While the Braves had penciled in Simmons as the starting shortstop at Double-A Mississippi, he says that regardless of where he begins the season, he wants to reach the majors at some point in 2012. He believes that goal is within reach provided he continues to produce offensively while fine-tuning his defense by cutting down on careless errors.
• Joey Terdoslavich, who is slated to spend the entire season at third base after playing first base last year, took advantage of some early action in spring games. The switch-hitter had four hits in his first 10 at-bats and was impressive in all parts of his game during workouts.
• A strong start made minor league free agent Drew Sutton the early leader for the utility role on the big league club.