Angels have a gem in newest star Andrelton Simmons

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“Everything the light touches… that is your range at shortstop, Simba.” Ok, so maybe that isn’t quite what Mufasa said to Simba in Disney’s movie the Lion King but for our case it reigns true. Perhaps you know the Angels new shortstop by his real name Andrelton (ANN-drull-ton) Simmons but to the fans of  the Atlanta Braves, Simba is an all too familiar nickname for the best defensive shortstop in baseball.

Last offseason the Angels traded the aging second baseman and expiring contract of Howie Kendrick for a much younger, long-term valuable pitcher in Andrew Heaney. This offseason the team flipped the other end of the former double-play duo in Erick Aybar(32), who is also aging and has an expiring contract to the Braves. This time for a much younger, very affordable, wizard with the glove in Simba who is entering the season at age 26. They may have given up a bit too much for Simba by including Aybar and the team’s number 1 Sean Newcomb and 2 Chris Ellis pitching prospects but that’s for another article.

Simmons is the modern day Ozzie Smith. If you know  the way The Wizard of Oz used to played defense, then you know what high praise that is. We probably won’t see Simmons running onto the field doing back handsprings but some things just cannot be duplicated. Simmons and Ozzie are almost identical players. Both players make dazzling, jaw dropping plays at short and both players also don’t bring much to the plate, in batting.

Throughout Ozzie’s 19 year career he owns a .978 fielding percentage and .262/.337/.328 offensive slash line. Simba through four seasons has a .983 fielding percentage and .256/.304/.362 slash line.

The numbers are pretty comparable even with the vast difference in service time. It isn’t until you actually watch them play that you see the similarities in their abilities. From fielding a ball on a slow-hit dribbler in the infield to making a diving stop on a ball that got past the third baseman in shallow left, leaping up and still getting the runner at first.

We have something special in Anaheim, Angel fans.

Aybar will be missed by most fans. Up until this point he has been a good and faithful shortstop who played his whole career in Anaheim, made sensational plays on defense, could and did bat everywhere in the line-up, and tested the limits on the basepaths even though he probably shouldn’t have most times. He was fun to watch and cheer for but with the era of one shortstop coming to a close, a new one will be  beginning very soon.

Andrelton Simmons isn’t going to be the offensive line-up protector of Mike Trout or Albert Pujols that Angel fans have been clamoring for all . He isn’t that definitive leadoff guy that the team has been missing. He will likely hit somewhere between 7th and 8th each day. However, what he lacks in his bat, he more than makes up for in his glove. He led the entire Major Leagues in runs saved since his entering in 2012 with 113. He has led the National League in Defensive Runs Above Replacement (DWAR) since his first full season in 2013. He already ranks 6th on the active players list in DWAR in just 4 seasons. The next fewest seasons in the top ten active players is 9. I’m telling you he is something special to keep your eye on.

Andrelton Simmons won’t drive in a ton of runs on offense, but he will save a ton of runs on defense and that is just as good. Between Simba at short and Trout in center, its going to be an elephant’s graveyard for hitters.