Erick Aybar: Upgrade at Shortstop for Braves?


Erick Aybar is now the starting shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, following the trade of Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday.

While many fans of the Atlanta Braves decried the trade of Simmons to the Angels as another instance where the front-office traded away a cornerstone player in order to play the lottery with prospects, in reality, the trade itself was a justifiable exchange. Though Simmons was signed long-term for the Braves, his annual salary would continue to increase over the next five years, and there is no indication that his pedestrian offensive numbers would change drastically.

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Though Andrelton Simmons is probably the greatest defensive player of our generation, the Atlanta Braves front-office must have thought that his offensive shortcomings outweighed his defensive impact, prompting the move to trade Simmons for the highly touted pitching prospects of Sean Newcomb, Chris Ellis, and veteran shortstop Erick Aybar.

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Erick Aybar is not the defensive wizard that Andrelton Simmons is, but is arguably an upgrade offensively. On an Atlanta Braves team that had the worst run differential in baseball last year at -187 on the year, along with the worst team batting average at .251, 30th out of 30 teams in RBI’s, and the least amount of homers with only 100.

Though Andrelton Simmons’s swing started to improve at the end of the season (batting .283 in the second half of the season), he finished the year with a .265 batting average with only 4 home-runs and 44 RBI’s. Of course, Simmons value is derived from his defensive play, recording 3.5 DWAR in 2015 — an exceptional measure by all accounts.

The 32-year-old Erick Aybar’s numbers mirror Simmons’s last season, as he hit for a .270 average with 3 home-runs and 44 RBI’s to go along with a .639 OPS. Simmons recorded a .659 OPS in 2015. Regardless of how much both players offensive games are similar, Erick Aybar’s career statistics suggest that he is in fact an offensive upgrade over Simmons. For his career, Erick Aybar is a .276 hitter, and is only 18 months removed from a 2014 All-Star season where he batted .278 with 9 homers and 78 RBI’s.

Considering how Andrelton Simmons’s lifetime batting average at the major league level is .256, and other than his 17 homer outburst in the 2013 season, has not found a way to reclaim the same power he demonstrated from that season. So now that we have examined the numbers of both Andrelton Simmons and Erick Aybar, did the Braves upgrade at shortstop?

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At a quick glance, Erick Aybar is a slight upgrade offensively based on his career statistics, but given the defensive value of Andrelton Simmons, I believe that Aybar still brings less value to the team. Despite this, Erick Aybar is more than an adequate replacement for Andrelton Simmons, and the Braves’ front-office should be commended for initiating a trade in which they received a shortstop of comparable quality as well as two blue chip prospects.

It’s difficult to predict Erick Aybar’s impact on the 2016 Atlanta Braves, but it’s inconsequential. Aybar is only a stop-gap measure until top prospect Ozhaino Albies progresses enough at the minor-league level in order to receive a promotion. The organization views Albies as its shortstop of the future, and the Atlanta Braves could do much worse than having Erick Aybar as their stop-gap measure.

Next: Atlanta Braves: The Upside with Newcomb and Ellis

The Atlanta Braves and their fans will surely miss Andrelton Simmons and all the highlight reel plays he displayed on almost a nightly basis. However, amidst the rebuilding efforts of the club, it’s tough to severely criticize GM John Coppolella’s decision to pull of a trade in which the Braves may have found a top of the rotation ace and perhaps an offensive upgrade at shortstop until Albies is ready to enter the show.