Though many doubted whether Andrelton Simmons would be capable of fulfilling his new duties as lead-off man for the Atlanta Braves, the young shortstop is silencing his critics in a big way after a productive performance at the World Baseball Classic and a big day at the plate in his first game back at Spring Training.
Simmons tied with former Brave Andruw Jones for the Netherlands team lead with a .333 batting average. Tack on three doubles and two homers over the eight games the Dutch played, and one would think that would be enough to prove himself ready for the season.
“It wasn’t like he was on vacation,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told ajc.com. “He was getting at-bats and getting his work in, and he’s in great shape. He’s ready to go.”
But what does Simmons do when he gets back to the Braves? He pelts a double and two homers in an 18-9 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. What's better is that he isn't content with it.
"There are still a few things I think I can work on," Simmons said on braves.com. "But I feel game ready right now. So I should be good."
Simmons only drew two walks, reminding everyone he isn't the traditionally patient lead-off hitter, but he hit .289 with a .335 on-base percentage last year with the Braves, all while striking out just 21 times in 182 plate appearances. The only Braves with lower strikeout rates than his 11.5 percent were Chipper Jones (11.4 percent) and Martin Prado (10 percent).
With a newly tooled lineup hitting behind him combined with the consistency he's exhibited so far, expect Simmons to be a more than capable lead-off man in 2013.
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