Sign in to follow this  
AngelsWin.com

AngelsWin.com Today: 2019 Angelswin.com Primer Series: Shortstop

21 posts in this topic

Article Simmons Picture

By Robert Cunningham, Angelswin.com Senior Writer

Results

2018 was a banner year for Andrelton Simmons, who posted his best WAR season to-date in the Majors, at a sterling 5.5 WAR.

Clearly a lot of that production was on the defensive side of the spectrum but he also turned in a 2nd consecutive above average offensive season too, begging the question of whether or not the Angels should consider extending him.

You may agree or disagree but finding defensive-wizards at critical defensive positions that can post 5-WAR seasons is not an easy task, so it should be on the table in the author’s opinion.

Beyond the actual physical results, Simmons continues to show how brilliant he is tactically on the baseball battlefield. His in-game awareness, ability to back-pick overly aggressive runners, and his range and coverage of the infield is second to none in baseball right now.

Wins Above Replacement (WAR)

So we mentioned above that 2018 was Andrelton’s best season of his career at 5.5 WAR.

It is now the 2nd consecutive season that Simmons has exceeded the 5-WAR mark, as he posted 5.1 WAR last year in 2017.

A significant amount of this WAR improvement has actually come on the offensive side of the ball as Andrelton has worked hard to improve his at-bat’s over the last two seasons.

It is hard to gauge how long Simmons can operate at the 5-WAR level as defense is usually the first player ability that declines with age. Andrelton will be entering his age 29 season in 2019, so age-related decline is something coming into view on the horizon that Eppler and the Angels will need to consider if they really are interested in extending him past his last year of contractual control in 2020.

Offense (wRC+)

The main improvement has come from Andrelton’s increased Hard% (hard hit rate) over the last two seasons. In 2017 he had a Hard% of 29.2% and in 2018 he jumped to 36%. Both of these numbers exceed his career average of 27.4%.

Also over those same two years, he has become more of a pull hitter. In 2017 he had a 45.3% Pull% and in 2018 it jumped to 51%, both higher than his career 42.3% Pull%.

When you combine the harder hit balls to the pull-side along with slight increases in his isolated power (ISO), it has allowed Simmons to place the ball more in the outfield grass. BABIP has been favorable to Andrelton so that could possibly normalize but the changes in ISO and Hard% are probably real advancements that have led to the higher BABIP number so it is not too much of a concern.

In the end he has matured as a hitter and it looks like those changes are here to stay resulting in overall better plate performance that should continue for at least the next couple of seasons, if not longer.

Defense (DEF)

To get a real taste and flavor of how good Andrelton Simmons is on defense, you need to perform a historical comparison of shortstops. Below is a table listing all shortstops from 2002-2018 with a minimum of 1000 innings played sorted by FanGraphs ‘DEF’ metric divided by total innings played to convert it to a rate statistic:

SS_Sorted by Def per Inn

Other than perhaps Nick Punto, no one else really comes close to Simmons consistent defensive rates. Even Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 innings agrees:

SS_Sorted by UZR per 150 Inn

In comparison to the nearest active player on the list, Francisco Lindor, who is also considered a fine defensive shortstop, Andrelton exceeds him by 32.5% in Def/Inn and by almost 50% in UZR/150!

The point being made here is that Simmons is a truly gifted defensive player at the most defense-critical position in baseball. Due to the ‘Def’ and ‘UZR’ statistics being imprecise and a lack of quality information for previous generations it is hard to slot Andrelton in on a list of all-time great shortstops (think Mark Belanger, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, Art Fletcher, Ernie Banks, et al) but you have to think he would give any of them a real run for their money.

Eppler has made team defense a very high priority, particularly up-the-middle defense (C, SS, 2B, and CF) and if the Angels want to continue that pursuit of excellence keeping a guy like Simmons on the team would make a lot of sense.

If Andrelton gets injured, the Angels currently have a backup option in Zack Cozart, himself a quality defensive shortstop, and Luis Rengifo down in the high Minors if things get really rough.

Projections

The Steamer projection system sees Andrelton hovering just below his 3-year running average of 4.4 WAR at 4 WAR.

When you consider Simmons age (29 years old for most of the 2019 season) and the fact that defense is the first attribute that a player usually sees decline in, expecting a 4-5 WAR season is probably a reasonable hope for Angels fans. In fact his running 3-year average of 4.4 WAR is probably a good target.

If Andrelton exceeds that number fantastic! If he falls short he is still excelling in all likelihood. Either way the Angels are getting what they paid for and more. This is probably the best value trade to-date for Billy Eppler and may go down as the best overall when all is said and done.

Contractual Details

Simmons is entering his 2nd to last year of contractual control in 2019. Currently, after the 2020 season is complete he will become a free agent.

The current deal was $58M over 7 years that he signed with the Atlanta Braves, originally, prior to the 2014 season at the tender age of 24 years old. The Halos will pay Andrelton $13M in 2019 and $15M in 2020, albeit at a very team-friendly $8.3M average annual value (AAV) across those two seasons.

It is the author’s opinion that the Angels should seriously consider a contract extension for Simmons. This contract value will vary based on your opinion of how defense-first players decline but let me offer up a rudimentary guess at a potential extension contract.

Below is a table using a standard, basic WAR model, a defensive-decline model that discounts more than the standard model, and a historic comparison model:

Capture

The first two models use Simmons 3-year running WAR average as a starting base and then add in a 7% year-to-year inflation and also age-related decline (the standard model) and, in the case of the defensive-decline model, additional negative WAR decline year-to-year.

Now let me be clear: the author does not believe in either the standard or defensive-decline models. They are simply there to show you how WAR is still inaccurate as a tool for contract modeling for defense-first players. No one in their right mind would fork out $284M much less $197M for Andrelton in free agency in the author’s personal opinion (and probably the opinion of many, many others).

This brings us to the historical comparison model which is simply taking two recent comparable players, Elvis Andrus and Troy Tulowitzki, and projecting a Simmons extension offer based on those deals.

Here is Elvis Andrus’ last six years of his current contract that aligns well age-wise with Simmons:

Capture

That is approximately $90M over six years and it is an easy case that a 7th year would tack on another $10M-$13M, bringing it up, just above, $100M. There is also an easy case to be made that Simmons is a superior player to Elvis but we will leave that alone for now.

Now here is Troy Tulowitzki’s seven years starting at age 29:

Capture

That is $114M in total for those years. There is a reasonable case to be made that Tulowitzki, when healthy, was a better overall player than Andrelton but that too we will not touch here.

Inflation plays a factor here (and that is reflected in Andrus’ contract above) but reasonably there is a case to be made that on a 7-year deal, if it was presented to Andrelton this off-season, an extension contract would probably be somewhere in the $100M-$130M range.

Simmons is clearly a superior defender to Andrus and in fact is a better hitter too. Andrelton has also been a much healthier, consistent player than Tulowitzki so there is a case, overall, that Simmons should be on the higher end of not only the salary range but the WAR range as well.

Previously the author had pegged an estimated 6-year, $102M deal, beginning at the end of 2019, as a target. If the Angels were to jump a year early, it would probably be a 7-year, $120M extension contract.

In the end, the Angels need to manage risk and waiting one more year will give them more information about Simmons health and performance. In the era of analytics more data equals greater knowledge and reduces financial exposure and risk. Waiting one more year is worth it from a front office perspective.

Finally one more thing to consider is the available pool of replacement shortstops in the 2020-2021 off-season. In that off-season, it is a truly uninspiring group of names that includes Freddy Galvis and Jurickson Profar.

However, in the following 2021-2022 off-season you see a more interesting group that includes Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story among others. If the Angels were willing to bridge the 2021 season with a player like Luis Rengifo (himself a potential replacement, perhaps), they could choose to strike at a younger shortstop the year after.

Replacement Options

Part of the reason the Angels acquired Zack Cozart in free agency was to add insurance behind Simmons if he were to get injured and was out for an extended period of time.

To be frank Cozart, despite his strong history of good defense at shortstop, is no Andrelton, in terms of defense. To be even more frank you would be hard pressed to find a better overall player at the position, except for perhaps Francisco Lindor or Manny Machado.

Behind Cozart the Angels have depth in the high Minors with Luis Rengifo and, maybe, someone like David Fletcher. Long-term the Angels will need to consider the value of retaining Andrelton versus letting him enter free agency. That decision, based on the above, is more likely to come next off-season, prior to Simmons last year of control, when Eppler has more information to base his final decision on.

Personally, the author believes Andrelton walks on water and would like to see him locked up sooner rather than later but the Angels could feel differently and may have other areas they want to focus their resources on in the future. It should be noted that Eppler almost certainly wants a strong defensive player at shortstop so that will definitely factor in to the strategic five-year outlook.

Summary

Andrelton Simmons is a terrific player to have on your team.

He plays exceptional defense at the most defensive-critical position in baseball. His offense is above League-average and his wRC+ of 109, in 2018, was significantly above the League-average at shortstop of 95 wRC+. His in-game instincts and leadership on the field are second-to-none in the game right now. No one on this team takes his own personal mistakes more to heart than Simmons does, which drives him to constantly improve his game.

In the end Andrelton is the type of player you want on your team. He is dedicated and committed to his craft and drives himself to perform at the highest level that he can at all times. That makes him a keeper in my book.

View the full article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Simmons may be one of the more underrated stars in baseball. His 10.6 fWAR over the last two years is 12th among position players.

That said, he's not a generational talent like Trout, so I'm OK if the Angels let him play out his current contract before extending him. I suspect that Simmons will age well and still be very good for at least another 4-5 years after 2020, so his age 31-34/35 seasons. He might swap out some of his defensive value for slightly better hitting and still be a 3-5 WAR player.

But the Angels have some solid--and much cheaper--options in Fletcher and Rengifo, and eventually Jackson. None of these guys are likely to be as good as Simmons, but do you want to a 4-5 WAR guy for $20 million or a 2-3 WAR guy for a few million? Regardless of the answer, it doesn't hurt to see how the next couple years pan out.

It is worth nothing that Simmons has improved offensively in each of the last four years. Check out his wRC+ over the last five years: 71, 81, 90, 103, 109. If the trend continues, he could have his best two years in 2019-20. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Angelsjunky said:

Simmons may be one of the more underrated stars in baseball. His 10.6 fWAR over the last two years is 12th among position players.

That said, he's not a generational talent like Trout, so I'm OK if the Angels let him play out his current contract before extending him. I suspect that Simmons will age well and still be very good for at least another 4-5 years after 2020, so his age 31-34/35 seasons. He might swap out some of his defensive value for slightly better hitting and still be a 3-5 WAR player.

But the Angels have some solid--and much cheaper--options in Fletcher and Rengifo, and eventually Jackson. None of these guys are likely to be as good as Simmons, but do you want to a 4-5 WAR guy for $20 million or a 2-3 WAR guy for a few million? Regardless of the answer, it doesn't hurt to see how the next couple years pan out.

It is worth nothing that Simmons has improved offensively in each of the last four years. Check out his wRC+ over the last five years: 71, 81, 90, 103, 109. If the trend continues, he could have his best two years in 2019-20. 

Fletcher isn't a SS.  His defense isn't adequate there.  Rengifo could be a replacement, but I think he profiles better at a 2bman.  I think it's worth 15-18m per to keep Simmons.  Partly because even if either of those guys could produce 2-3 WAR for league min, we still need to fill 2b and 3b,  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
51 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

Fletcher isn't a SS.  His defense isn't adequate there.  Rengifo could be a replacement, but I think he profiles better at a 2bman.  I think it's worth 15-18m per to keep Simmons.  Partly because even if either of those guys could produce 2-3 WAR for league min, we still need to fill 2b and 3b,  

What about a 2021 infield of Ward, Rengifo, Jones, and Thaiss? 

But yeah, Simmons is great and I won't be at all bummed if he's extended. But I can also understand waiting, especially once we have a better idea of what we have in Rengifo and Jones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

What about a 2021 infield of Ward, Rengifo, Jones, and Thaiss? 

But yeah, Simmons is great and I won't be at all bummed if he's extended. But I can also understand waiting, especially once we have a better idea of what we have in Rengifo and Jones.

that would be great but I don't think we can count on every prospect working out.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

True, but then we have Maitan, Soto, Rivas, and Jackson all as potential options. 

Maitan is a future 1b if he works out.  Soto is in rookie ball.  Rivas I wouldn't include in any future plans and Jackson was just drafted and likely at 3bman.  

I think Soto is very underrated as a prospect but he's 3-4 years away.  

Maybe some guys start to overlap a bit.  Who knows.  I guess it boils down to how we'd spend that money otherwise.  On a SP?  A C?  

Simmons probably maintains his value well and therefore could be traded too.  

It's kinda funny to think about, but a key factor in our plan going forward is whether Taylor Ward can be an everyday guy.   Not something we can count on, but I think he's going to get more than just a cursory look.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Chuckster70 said:

Brian Kenny from the MLB Network has Simmons sandwiched between Machado and Baez and ahead of Turner and Seager in his top SS list. 

 

 

and Harold "Put a sock in it" Reynolds rates Simmons 10th? Peanut head!

 

51720756_10155759114646695_8682902629455495168_o.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, Angelsjunky said:

But the Angels have some solid--and much cheaper--options in Fletcher and Rengifo, and eventually Jackson. None of these guys are likely to be as good as Simmons, but do you want to a 4-5 WAR guy for $20 million or a 2-3 WAR guy for a few million? Regardless of the answer, it doesn't hurt to see how the next couple years pan out.

I'll take the better player. Saving money is overrated when the goal is to win, and it's not like we should expect Simmons to be a low value signing. His defense may decline, but he is still going to be good and that is the major driver in his overall value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, Angelsjunky said:

What about a 2021 infield of Ward, Rengifo, Jones, and Thaiss? 

Who knows, but I'd wager right now that this would be a well below average group. I'm bullish on one of these guys being a valuable every day piece going forward, but certainly not the entire group.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 minutes ago, Angel Oracle said:

Any thought to putting Rengifo at 3B and Jones at 2B?

Or is Rengifo's hitting and defense not suited to 3B?

I like this, but then again it requires both to be major leaguers.  I hope Jones has a break out year this year after his nice showing in the AFL.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Angel Oracle said:

Any thought to putting Rengifo at 3B and Jones at 2B?

Or is Rengifo's hitting and defense not suited to 3B?

Why not Jones at 2B, Rengifo at 3B, and Ward at 1B? :D

Anything's possible but these guys are going to have to prove they belong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, ettin said:

Why not Jones at 2B, Rengifo at 3B, and Ward at 1B? :D

Anything's possible but these guys are going to have to prove they belong.

Ward showed the HR power but not much else at this level a year ago.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, ettin said:

Why not Jones at 2B, Rengifo at 3B, and Ward at 1B? :D

Anything's possible but these guys are going to have to prove they belong.

I like it.  Ward would actually make a good platoon partner with Bour at 1b.  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

I like it.  Ward would actually make a good platoon partner with Bour at 1b.  

 

I actually really believe Taylor could become a 1B. Good defense and OBP and then Thaiss, if he doesn't pan out like people thought, could become trade bait.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  


  • AngelsWin.com Ad-free Membership Options