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On Tuesday night, the Atlanta Braves ended their longest losing streak of the season at eight games and have in fact won two in a row, but they have tired of their lack of production from the shortstop spot. The club is demoting rookie Tyler Pastornicky and recalling Andrelton Simmons, their hotshot 6 of the future.
Atlanta hoped that Pastornicky, 22, would be at minimum serviceable while Simmons incubated. He got off to a slow start with the bat, but the team was willing to live with some sub-par offense as long as he played good defense, for which he had a rep. It wasn't a rep for making spectacular plays, just for making all the routine ones.
David O'Brien expands on how the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder had picked it up at the plate before hitting the skids again. It was unfortunate for Pastornicky, whose seven errors (five throwing) had already put him on the brink of a demotion. O'Brien's quote from Bravos GM Frank Wren summed it up. "We needed more."
Incidentally, Jack Wilson fans, Wren didn't mean that they needed more Wilson (.172/.197/.190 in 63 plate appearances, one error).
And so, the organization is turning to Simmons. As spring training drew to a close, word was that the staff as well as players (Simmons) and the front office (Pastornicky) supported different candidates to open at the position.
In general, those in the clubhouse didn't care that Simmons had much less professional experience (none above advanced Class A ball) and may not hit; they saw an extremely talented glove man whom they felt was ready to handle the rigors of the bigs. A long cold streak at bat in exhibition ball chilled a hot start, though, and the FO felt justified in its backing of Pastornicky despite his .221 spring average and occasionally shoddy glove work.
But, as Wren told O'Brien, reports from the farm began to convince the brass that Simmons, who was at Double-A Mississippi and is actually a few months older than Pastornicky, was a viable MLB alternative after all.
How much of a role did what the Braves were getting from their MLB players affect the decision to promote the player who looks like a better solution, even though he's performing against far inferior competition? There's definitely a faction of observers who believe that Simmons isn't ready, and one has to wonder if this will curb the confident youngster's development.
If Simmons fields his position - which he should, easily - chances are that the Braves will be happy, even if he hits no better than the combo of Pastornicky and Wilson did. That screams to fantasy owners to hold their horses, however.
Simmons, 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, has only 200 plate appearances at the Class AA level. His 10 percent walk rate and 10 percent strikeout rate, along with his .292 average, are encouraging, but he's a light-hitting right-handed batter.
He offers speed for prospective roto players (10 thefts this season, 26 in 2011), but probably not much of it. There should be doubts about his ability to pick his spots because he was unsuccessful on 18 attempts last season. His potential struggles at the dish and his likely lineup position will limit opportunities, too.
Simmons isn't a prime bet to contribute fantasy numbers, but his gifts give him a legit chance to do so. In very deep leagues, if talent is available and it's getting PT, particularly at such a position, it doesn't hurt to tuck it away. Mixed leaguers shouldn't get their hopes up, though.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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