The Atlanta Braves had an unusually quiet off season. A few changes, expected trades, the loss of a few free agents, some players non-tendered and the required names floating about in the rumor mill. All in all, mostly quiet. The Braves entered camp with the starting line-up in place. But then something happened. Andrelton Simmons.
Tyler Pastornicky was unofficially crowned the Braves new shortstop when the Braves let Alex Gonzalez go via free agency. There's been a big buzz about him. Not as big as that of Freddie Freeman or Jason Heyward, but still a pretty good one. I'm always a bit skeptical about the media and fans "crowning" a young player before they prove themselves. Expectations get set too high and it's not good for anyone, players and fans alike.
Don't get me wrong. I'm excited about Tyler Pastornicky but Andrelton Simmons is challenging Tyler like no one expected. This is our Spring Training drama!
A quick side by side comparison (as of noon today) looks like this. Pastornicky has hit in 22 games and has a .222 average. Simmons has played in 14 games and has a .186 average. Keep in mind that Pastornicky has had 20 more at-bats than Simmons. Neither average is stellar, but remember that Alex Gonzalez ended the season with .241 average. All in all, their batting stats are as comparable as their ages. Both players are 22 with only 4 months separating them.
In the infield the story is a bit different. Simmons is markedly better defensively. Alex Gonzalez spoiled us last year with some brilliant fielding and Braves fans have gotten use to that. That makes a strong case for Simmons getting the call. But Simmons has only played as high as Class A ball. Is that too big a jump for a player? Not always, Rafael Furcal made the same jump but he also brought with him exceptional speed on the base paths. This is what must be considered. Simmons has only hit Class A pitching. There's a HUGE difference hitting at the major league level. Pastornicky has faced much better pitching in Gwinnett and Mississippi for a much longer time. That could give him the edge.
It's been said that Pastornicky was only to be the Braves shortstop until Simmons was ready. Who knows how long that may be? Either way, this is a great "problem" for the Braves to have.
Tommy Hanson has been named the Braves Opening Day starter versus the Mets. Jair Jurrjens will start the Home Opener versus the Brewers.
The Braves signed 37 year-old Livan Hernandez. He will be used a long reliever and make spot starts. I don't know about y'all, but I'll have a hard time cheering for him. I wonder if he's bringing along that huge strike zone that Eric Gregg gave him...
Brian McCann has changed masks. He was forced to wear the hockey-style mask when he had his vision problems a few years ago but he never really liked it. He now is wearing a lighter version of that mask which he says he can see better out of.