The Los Angeles Angels’ Andrelton Simmons has long been considered and viewed as one of, if not the best defensive shortstops in the game. However, his offense has always lagged behind. Is this the year that changes?
When you think of Andrelton Simmons, you probably think of a shortstop making incredible defensive plays game in and game out. If that is the case, then you’re all good because he has made a name for himself on the defensive side of the diamond. The former Atlanta Brave, now a member of the Los Angeles Angels, has made all his money with his glove.
The thing holding him back from true stardom and becoming one of the elite shortstops (and possibly players) in the league is his bat, and that’s a huge negative. He cost the Los Angeles Angels their two top pitching prospects and longtime starter Erick Aybar, so they are hoping he can make such an impact that this trade won’t go down as a bust.
In 623 career games, Simmons is a horrid .261/.308/.363 hitter. Those are numbers that some bench players surpass. So why is he starting every day? As mentioned earlier, his defense is the reason he is an everyday starting shortstop who will make $47 million through the 2020 season.
If last season was any indication, then there’s a chance that he can evolve his game past just defense. His 2016 numbers rose to .281/.324/.366 after hitting .265/.321/.338 in 2015 and .244/.286/.331 in 2014. Yes, those are ugly. However, the one positive he has going for him at the plate is that he is a contact hitter and hardly strikes out. He has a career 8.9 percent strikeout rate, and that is something to build on.
Simmons hit 17 home runs in 2013, which now looks like an aberration. He has 15 home runs since then (four last season). Even if it was a fluke, he showed the ability to hit for some power. However, even with 17 home runs, his slugging percentage did not even eclipse .400 that season. He did hit 22 doubles last season and 23 in 2015, but other than that, he does not offer much in the power department either (just look at his slugging percentages over the years).
So, with the slight improvement at the plate in 2016, is this the season that the 27-year-old finally takes the next step and displays an offensive ability that comes even a little close to his defensive ability?
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He did not really show anything last year to truly convince anyone that he will take the next step. His ground ball percentage was up a little from his career average while his fly ball percentage was down from his career average. Simmons’ hard contact percentage was down from earlier in his career and his career average. His BABIP has fluctuated from year to year, but that has never seemed to hold him back and make him truly unlucky in his career. If it has, then he has been unlucky for five seasons then. He had a .298 BABIP last season (.300 is considered around average).
Combine that with pretty much everything else being similar to his career averages, and you have a guy who you know what you are getting from: Someone who has possibly plateaued. I truly believe he has stagnated in his career in terms of development. At this point it is more of a pattern than anything having to do with fortune.
Remember, this is a guy with a .261/.308/.363 career slash line. He has a track record for not being able to get a hit, get on base, or offer any sort of power. It would be different if he specialized in one of those departments, but he doesn’t. He has a career .671 OPS, and an OPS+ of 86. His OPS+ improved to 92 in 2016, which is still below average.
I believe that he will hit in the ballpark of .270/.320/.350 while playing his usual tremendous defense. You can’t necessarily say that line would be a regression, though. It will still be better than his career numbers and what he did from 2013-2015. I hope I am proven wrong, but I just don’t see it happening this season. The Los Angeles Angels are certainly hoping, though.