On November 12 of 2015, the Los Angeles Angels acquired SS Andrelton Simmons from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for LHP Sean Newcomb, SS Erick Aybar, and RHP Chris Ellis. At the time, critics pointed out the many holes in Simmons’ game — particularly his lack of power and weak hitting tools. Even some Angels fans were frustrated, believing Aybar was a more productive offensive player. There was also some hesitation from Angels fans as Eppler’s first move was shipping off a fan favorite. Luckily, he knew what he was doing. Nearly three years later, ‘Simba’ has put these criticisms aside and become a very productive 4-tool player for the Angels thus deserving more attention.
The last few seasons have been an impressive development for Simmons. After going to the Angels, he has maintained his defensive prowess whilst significantly improving offensively. In the last 3 years he has made significant strides in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+. Additionally, he is on pace to transcend his career highs in hit total, total bases, and runs scored this season.
This season has been particularly impressive for the Angels shortstop. In over 200 plate appearances Simmons has hit .337 with an OBP of .403. While he’s only hit 4 home runs, he does have 32 RBI, only trailing his teammate Mike Trout as far as the team leaderboard. All in all, that totals up to a 3.1 overall WAR. This is good for 7th in the MLB in general and his dWar ranks 10th at 1.0. At this pace, he would transcend a 9.3 WAR which is easily a career high. This performance stacks up well to other shortstops in the league, edging out Indians superstar Francisco Lindor for the lead.
He has also displayed incredible ability to make contact. He has only whiffed 10 times this season and has walked 21 times. No player in the big leagues has double the amount of walks as strikeouts. In fact, his differential of walks to Ks is +11, the best in the majors. The next 5 players on that list are Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Mike Trout, Joe Mauer, and Bryce Harper. That’s some pretty good company. In his last 7 games, he has not struck out and has hit for a .393 batting average. He has 11 hits and 3 walks in that span, driving in 6 runs. If not for that Mike Trout guy, he would be the most productive bat in the Angels’ lineup.
Interestingly, Simmons’ Statcast averages this year are fairly pedestrian. He has hit the ball with an exit velocity of 88.95, just 0.02 mph above league average. Also, his average launch angle has been 7.7 degrees, far below the growing MLB average of 12.51. In a league obsessed with launch and power, Simmons is just hitting the ball in good spots. Then how can we explain his breakout? A possible indicator of his success is his increased BABIP. As you can see below, his BABIP this season is at .337, transcending his career high of .310 as a rookie in Atlanta. It’s also a significant upgrade over his .291 mark last season, which was a solid offensive season for him. Simmons’ solid speed has allowed him to beat out many infield singles and extend possible singles to doubles. To him, contact is key.
In case you forgot, Simmons is still a wizard with the glove. His dWAR is once again on the top 10 leaderboard, at 1.0 so far. He’s also helped the Halos’ pitching staff quite a bit, turning a league-leading 41 — yes, 41 — double plays. If he isn’t at shortstop turning those plays, the rotation takes a big hit. With multiple gold gloves under his belt, he hasn’t let up in the eyes of defensive metrics. Combined with Ian Kinsler at second base, and Martin Maldonado behind the dish, the Halos have saved their staff a lot this season on defense alone.
Making just $6M, Simmons is not just underrated — he’s criminally underpaid. He’s putting himself in the conversation for MVP, and perhaps still has more to prove. His fantastic hand-eye coordination has translated to the plate and has held up incredibly well on defense. In an offense including Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, and Zack Cozart, he is truly standing out. Many people discuss Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor as the league’s elite at shortstop, but Simmons leads the position in WAR. He may not have the power as those two, but he makes up for it in contact skills and defensive prowess. He’ll reach several career highs this season offensively, which the Angels will certainly need to make a playoff run. Andrelton Simmons may not be the most attractive name in baseball but he’s proving his worth this season.
(Image via Halosheaven.com)