The Atlanta Braves completed a much needed shortstop switch after Wednesday's win over the Cardinals, demoting incumbent Tyler Pastornicky to AAA Gwinnett and promoting Andrelton Simmons from AA Mississippi to the majors.
Pastornicky had struggled both offensively and defensively in the majors after winning the starting job in Spring Training. This year, he had just a .605 OPS, and was lately ceding one start a week to veteran Jack Wilson. Pastornicky's defense, never thought to be a particularly strong suit, was ghastly. His DRS for the year was -16, the worst mark in all of baseball at any position by far, and his UZR was -10, another terrible mark. The Braves just couldn't go on with it anymore.
Simmons is a magnificent defender, with ESPN's Keith Law ranking both his glove and arm as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his speed as a 60. For the season in Mississippi, the 22 year-old Simmons had a .794 OPS, three homers, and ten stolen bases. The homers were part of a recent power surge, as all came in the last week. Simmons possesses solid plate discipline, walking and striking out 20 times apiece this year, but his pop is minimal overall.
Since the middle of 2010, the Braves have experienced a lot of insufficient production at shortstop after trading incumbent Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays in July of that year, in exchange for Pastornicky and the starter for the rest of 2010 and all of 2011, Alex Gonzalez. Escobar has thrived in Toronto on both offense and defense, accruing 6.1 fWAR in 240 games in Toronto. Gonzalez and Pastornicky combined for just under one win (0.9 fWAR) during their time in Atlanta, which is a huge dropoff from Escobar, who had a contentious relationship with outgoing manager Bobby Cox. After nontendering second baseman Kelly Johnson following the 2009 season, and the lowball trade of Escobar, Atlanta's treatment of middle infielders has been questionable, especially when you throw the perhaps above market value for an aging Dan Uggla into the mix as well.
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