Andrelton is a superb defensive shortstop—the best in the Braves' organization in 2011 and 2012. And the strongest arm, too. He has real good actions and impressive instincts. He slows the game down and reads the ball off the bat well.
"He's the best natural shortstop I've had the opportunity to work with," Braves roving infield instructor Tom Shields once said. "I believe he is the steal of the 2010 draft. He has unbelievable energy, a rifle for an arm, and excellent range. He is as smooth and polished as you'll ever see a guy at shortstop."
In 2017, Simmons was rated as the Best Defensive Shortstop in the AL, in a poll by Baseball America for their Best Tools issue in August, 2017.
And for the season, Andrelton ranked #1 in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved, with 32) and was among the leaders in fielding percentage, assists, putouts, innings played and range factor. He led all players with a 4.2 defensive WAR reading and holds the highest single-season defensive WAR mark in history, when he registered a 5.4 reading back in 2013.
Simmons has a real cannon for an arm, throwing hitters out from deep in the hole. It is rated a 75 or even an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Andrelton was clocked at 98 mph off the mound when he was in junior college in 2010.
In 2014, NL managers named Simmons as having the best infield arm in the league, via a Baseball America survey.
He makes all the plays and has excellent range, covering a lot of ground. He makes plays from deep in the hole look routine. Simmons has a tremendous understanding of the game.
Andrelton has outstanding hands. Some of the plays he makes are just plain freakish. He has the quickness, instincts, and range to fill highlight shows.
Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said, "Simmons is the best shortstop I've ever seen." When asked to provide the best defensive play he has seen Andrelton Simmons make, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has often said, "the next one."
Get Andrelton on the field and he can turn his body and do things because his core strength is incredible. When he dives, when he hops up to his feet, he's not using his hands to get up. That's not just athleticism, that is core strength.
Simmons says his amazing ability to retrieve every ball off every bad hop comes from the thousands of hours he put in taking ground balls on the pebble-strewn dirt fields in Curacao. His knees are covered with scars from all the dives and tumbles he took growing up.
"There was never such a thing as a good bounce," Simmons says. "You had to react to bad bounces constantly. It was good to learn how to use one hand.
To generate power, Simmons throws overhand, which is unusual for a shortstop. Andrelton began long-tossing as a teenager; at 14, he was throwing balls as far as 300 feet. He still long-tosses about once a week, sometimes from foul pole to foul pole. His arm strength allows him to play deeper at short and get longer looks at balls, often when the Braves play the infield in, they let Simmons play at his regular depth.
In 2013, Simmons was named the Rawlings Gold Glove winner at shortstop. And while it might be difficult to determine which of Simmons' jaw-dropping gems has been his best, it is quite difficult to argue against the widespread belief that he currently stands as baseball's premier defensive shortstop.
Andrelton became the first shortstop in Braves franchise history to win a Gold Glove. The last Braves infielder to win a Gold Glove was Terry Pendleton, who captured the award while playing third base for Atlanta in 1992. Pendleton, now Atlanta's first-base coach, spent the early portion of his career playing alongside the great Ozzie Smith.
Rawlings used a committee of experts in baseball analytics and defensive measurement in 2013. The group devised the SABR Defensive Index, which draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted-ball, location-based data, and those collected from play-by-play accounts.
The three metrics representing batted-ball data include defensive runs saved (from Baseball Info Solutions), ultimate zone rating (developed by sabermetician Mitchel Lichtman), and runs effectively defended (created by SABR's Chris Dial).
The 41 defensive runs saved credited to Simmons this year stands as the highest total recorded by a shortstop since the metric was first used in 2003. Adam Everett previously owned the record with the 36 DRS he recorded in 2006. No other Major League shortstop had a DRS greater than 12 in 2013.
In 2013, Rawlings named Simmons as the Top Defensive Player in the National League. Better than Yadier Molina, better than Brandon Phillips. Better than anybody in the Major Leagues not named Manny Machado. (That's because the Orioles third baseman captured the American League's version of the award.)
In 2014, Simmons was named the best defensive shortstop in baseball, winning the annual Fielding Bible award.
In 2014, Simmons received his second Gold Glove award as the best shortstop in the NL.
In 2017, Andrelton won the Gold Glove at shortstop—this time in the American League.
In 2018, Simmons continued to dazzle with his incredible range and acrobatic plays at shortstop in 2018, earning his fourth career Gold Glove Award. He easily outpaced his AL counterparts in defensive runs saved with 21, seven more than the Indians' Francisco Lindor.
On the outside of Simmons' glove are two words stitched into the leather: “God Given.” Andrelton does things defensively that few who’ve played the game have done as well.
Catcher Gerald Laird, who was Simmons' teammate in the 2013 season with the Braves after 10 with the Rangers, Tigers and Cardinals, said of Simmons: “He is the best shortstop I’ve played with. The good ones have great body control. It’s almost art, watching it. The things Simmons can do, it’s special.”
Based on measuring defensive runs saved, no player has equaled Simmons since the statistic came into use in 2003. He had an estimated 41 defensive runs saved this season, six above the previous record by Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner in 2010. Simmons’ 5.4 defensive WAR matched infielder Terry Turner’s score with the 1906 Cleveland Naps as the highest ever calculated, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Simmons has an uncanny ability to sense where a ball will be before it’s hit there. Simmons has churned out a lengthy catalog of mind-blowing plays, making him a fixture on highlight segments. But big leaguers will tell you the foundation for an elite defensive player is first making the routine plays. Simmons does.
Terry Pendleton came up in the Cardinals system and played from 1984-90 alongside Smith, aka “The Wizard of Oz.” He sees a lot of Smith in Simmons.
“They can change a game with their glove,” Pendleton said. “There are other shortstops that can do that, but their instincts and the way (Smith and Simmons) go about doing things and the way they think the game—they’ll do things instinctively that others won’t. But I keep reiterating to everybody, this kid has a year in the big leagues, and Ozzie did it for 20.
"I tell people, if Ozzie Smith had his arm, oh my God," Pendleton said. (David O'Brien - Baseball America - 11/12/13)
Simmons and Mizuno USA, agreed on a multi-year partnership in March 2014. Andrelton brings yet another high-caliber shortstop to Mizuno's growing roster of professional athlete ambassadors choosing to play with Mizuno. This select group of shortstops includes Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies, Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals, and Jose Iglesias of the Detroit Tigers.
Simmons prefers to think more about defense. "He takes so much pride in defensive stuff. It's nice to see," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "He loves defense."
While he can be scary with the way he wields the glove, throws darts from almost every conceivable angle, and tracks down balls with almost inconceivable range, he actually scares his manager more with his ferocity upon returning to the dugout following a play he does not make.
"You always see players stamp offensively. You know, they leave the bases loaded, they stamp, they go in there and they throw helmets and break stuff," Gonzalez said. "I've seen him get so upset because he felt like he didn't make a play defensively almost to the same extent that you have to go in there and calm him down because he's going to hurt himself. That's how much pride he takes."
"We put up the slogan: 'Defense Wins Championships!' this year," Gonzalez said. "It's the first time it's ever been up there because that's what wins. I brought Simmons out when we put it up. In any sport it takes some effort to play defense." (Cooper - mlb.com - 5/22/14)
Every shortstop works to stay at the position, even uber-talented ones like Andrelton. "You've got to keep your legs in shape,” Simmons said. “It’s a long season, no matter if you’re in the minors or the bigs. In the bigs it gets even worse, but your legs have to be in shape. You’ve got to stay mobile. You’ve got to be agile at short and have your legs under you.”
Simmons warns against becoming too muscle-bound, however, lest a shortstop lose mobility. So instead of focusing solely on weight training, he swims regularly in the offseason to give himself a cardio and strength workout. Plus, back home in Curacao, he engages in a type of cross-training with fellow big league middle infielders Jurickson Profar (Rangers) and Jonathan Schoop (Orioles).
“I play a little soccer—not intense—but (enough) to keep myself mobile, keep myself agile,” Simmons said. “That’s my biggest thing. You’ve got to do your exercises, your explosive stuff because you’re always a little off-balance. You’re always going to have to block a ball and make uncomfortable throws.”
Andrelton Simmons collects Web Gems with such regularity, garden-variety highlight compilations become 30-minute documentaries. (Jerry Crasnick - Baseball America - April 2016)
- 2018: Simmons won his fifth Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award at SS, the most at any position since the award was established in 2012.
- 2018: Simmons was a Fielding Bible Award winner. It was his sixth.