May 27, 2024

Former Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons declared his retirement on December 26, 2023, through a post on the Instagram account of his agency, ISE Baseball. The announcement came despite Simmons being just 34 years old. The post, however, leaves ambiguity regarding whether Simmons is bidding adieu to all of baseball or solely to the MLB, given his commitment earlier in the year to play in the new Middle East and South Asia professional Baseball United league.

If this marks the end of Simmons’ playing days, he leaves behind a legacy as one of the premier defensive players of his era. Primarily stationed as a shortstop, he amassed an impressive collection of accolades, including four Gold Gloves, one Platinum Glove, and six Wilson Defensive Player Awards for his exceptional work on the field.

Stats alone don’t capture the full extent of Simmons’ impact with his glove and formidable throwing arm. While defensive assessments are subjective, Baseball-Reference credits Simmons with 28.5 dWAR for his career, accompanied by 201 Defensive Runs Saved above average in over 10,000 innings as a shortstop. Fangraphs acknowledges his contribution with 114 total Ultimate Zone Rating runs above average throughout his career.

Simmons’ journey began when the Atlanta Braves drafted him in the second round of the 2010 draft from Western Oklahoma State College. He debuted for the Braves in 2012 and swiftly became their starting shortstop. Despite a hand injury causing a two-month absence in July, he returned in September to commence nearly a decade-long era of defensive dominance.

During his tenure with the Braves until the end of the 2015 season, spanning 499 games, Simmons clinched two Gold Gloves and notably secured the 14th spot in the NL MVP award voting in 2013. Although his 2015 season stood out as his defensive pinnacle as a Brave, he was not awarded the Gold Glove that year but was recognized as Wilson’s Overall Defensive Player, leading the NL with 4.1 bWAR.

Simmons’ offensive prowess was slightly below average throughout his career. Despite a career-high 17 home runs in 2013, he maintained a modest slash line of .256/.304/.362 during his time in Atlanta. His approach at the plate favored contact over walks, resulting in relatively few strikeouts but also infrequent walks.

He later played for the Los Angeles Angels and the Minnesota Twins, concluding his MLB career with a brief stint with the Chicago Cubs in 2022, primarily due to issues with his throwing shoulder that affected his performance and led to his release.

With the Angels, Simmons continued his exceptional defensive output, earning two Gold Gloves and achieving a career-best 5.1 dWAR in 2017, showcasing an incredible Infield Range above average. He also displayed improved offensive stats during his time in LA, raising his slash line to .281/.328/.394 and becoming a base-stealing threat.

Injuries interrupted significant portions of his seasons in 2016 and 2019, and he opted out before the conclusion of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign to address mental health concerns. Throughout his career, he played 1,225 games, participating in over 140 games only five times.

Despite a career cut short, Simmons’ 28.5 career dWAR places him tied for 11th all-time, playing four fewer seasons than any players ranked above him. He topped the league in dWAR three times and consistently ranked among the top defensive players. To illustrate his defensive prowess, he posted just 1.0 fewer dWAR in his career than Omar Vizquel, despite playing in 13 fewer seasons.

Simmons was also part of a contentious play in Braves history when his flyball to left field was controversially ruled an infield fly during the 2012 NL Wild Card game, leading to a stoppage in play after fans protested the call.

Five years ago, Simmons appeared on track to be one of the game’s defensive greats. However, injuries cut short his career, leaving behind a legacy as one of the premier defenders of his time. Yet, one can’t help but ponder if a longer, healthier career might have propelled him to join the ranks of all-time defensive legends like Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger, and Brooks Robinson.

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