I’m not a regular reader of Grantland, but Jonah Keri has the first part up of an extensive MLB Trade Value Rankings series and Braves fans will be happy to know that both Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman are included in the group of 14 players. Keri dropped Jason Heyward out of his top 50, but acknowledged that he still had the potential to become a star–just maybe not with the Braves.
Surprisingly, Keri pegged Simmons as the No. 39 most valuable player and Freddie Freeman as the No. 38 most valuable player. I would have expected Simmons to be more valuable than Freeman, simply because he plays a more valuable position with the best defensive skills in the game, but Keri gives Freeman a legitimate argument with his skill at the plate.
Here is a bit on each player according to Keri, but I’d encourage you to read the piece in its entirety (or at least the Simmons and Freeman sections) because it’s pretty good.
Simmons is the man who broke advanced stats. According to Baseball-Reference.com, over the first 206 games of Simmons’s career — basically one and a quarter seasons — he was worth just slightly fewer than eight Defensive Wins Above Replacement. Not total Wins Above Replacement. Defense only. Calculate that on a per-game basis, and Simmons’s defense alone makes him as valuable as Chris Davis was in 2013; yes, the Chris Davis who hit 53 homers and knocked in 138 runs last season.
He didn’t cause anywhere near as many protractor assaults as Miguel Cabrera, but Freeman was also a polarizing player. Freeman’s numbers with runners in scoring position were obscene this season, as he hit .443/.541/.695 in those spots versus .276/.348/.424 with the bases empty. Even the biggest Freeman fan would admit a split like that isn’t remotely sustainable, while analytical types also wonder if Freeman can sustain anything close to the .371 batting average on balls in play he posted in 2013. The league average on balls in play in 2013 was just .297, and Freeman’s BABIP in 2012 was .295. Freeman is also one of the slowest players in the league, making him a poor bet to get the kind of boost speedy slap hitters like Ichiro Suzuki would on infield hits. Freeman’s walk rate and power numbers were virtually identical in 2012 and ’13, but Freeman hit .319/.396/.501 in 2013 compared to just .259/.340/.456 in 2012, thanks almost entirely to that 76-point jump in BABIP. So which is the real Freddie?
Many people have been pushing for extensions for Freeman and Heyward this off-season (and last year), but I think the first player on the team worthy of a long-term extension is Andrelton Simmons. He’s clearly the best defensive shortstop in baseball and with the power potential he showed this year, there’s a chance he can be at least an average Major League hitter.
The tools that make him such a great player should be around for at least 8 more years and that alone justifies an extension in my book.
What are your thoughts on these two players and their value to the team moving forward? How about the top 5 most valuable Atlanta Braves players? I might have to start writing something up… Stay tuned.