Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are the first two names that pop into people’s heads when thinking about the best shortstop in Major League Baseball. But Los Angeles Angels infielder Andrelton Simmons is closing the gap and legitimately putting himself in the conversation for being the game’s best shortstop.
This season, Simmons has really come into his own as a complete player. A three-time Gold Glove recipient, the 28-year-old Simmons has been one of the best defensive shortstops in the game this decade. He can square up and get in front of any groundball, has a good arm, and is adept at turning double plays with ease; going into Monday afternoon, Simmons was tied for first in double plays turned by a shortstop this season (41). But it’s what Simmons is doing at the plate that is taking the league by storm.
While he hasn’t been a liability, Simmons has not been categorized as an elite hitter over his career. This season, he’s changing that narrative. Currently hitting .337 (which is fourth in baseball and first among shortstops) to go along with four home runs and 32 RBIs while owning a 3.1 WAR (which is the highest offensive WAR for a shortstop in 2018), Simmons has been one of the hardest outs in baseball. He’s on track to record a career-high in walks (Simmons has recorded 21 walks in 52 games), and, at this rate, RBIs too. Plus, Simmons has struck out just 10 times this season. He has garnered more plate discipline, is seeing the ball better, and is playing the best all-around baseball of his career. Accounting for 31 of the Angels’ 251 runs, he has been a pivotal piece to the puzzle for their offensive attack. With proven commodities and star players such as Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Zack Cozart, and Shohei Ohtani by his side, Simmons’ offensive emergence makes the Angels lineup formidable.
Based on the way he’s performing at the plate and in the field, Simmons is a legitimate candidate to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Simmons has always been a contact hitter; he has just never been consistent at the plate. Now, he’s put the two together and building his brand. He will likely be a participant at this year’s All-Star Game, and one must wonder whether the Gold Glover will command a mega-extension in the near future?
Premier middle infielders don’t hit free agency often. They’re given long-term deals before they hit the open market because reliable and durable shortstops are incredibly valuable and not a dime a dozen — which is why they tend to cash in on huge contracts. And the Angels would be wise to engage in contract talks with Simmons before they have fierce competition for his services after 2020, because if he continues to tear it up his value will only rise.
Simmons is having a breakout year, is still just 28, and is everything the Angels hoped he would become when they gave up top prospect Sean Newcomb to acquire him in the 2015 offseason. Because of his mediocre production at the plate in years past, Simmons is a bit of an unknown to the casual fan. Meanwhile, Lindor and Correa have dazzled in postseason play in recent memory — which generally attracts and sticks with fans. Lindor hit 33 home runs in 2017 and has played in the World Series. Correa has won the World Series and has committed zero errors this season — which is absurd, and the attention that he gets for his glove is well-deserved. At the same time, Lindor hasn’t hit above .300 since 2016, and Correa is hitting just .267; they’re not flawless players. And while Baltimore Orioles royalty Manny Machado was hitting a career-high .324 going into Monday afternoon, he hasn’t played shortstop long enough to be considered one of the best players at the position (Machado predominantly played third base before this season). Other than his lack of power, Simmons has put together the most complete season amongst shortstops two months in the year.
Sure, Lindor is a flashy player, Correa is a robot in the field, and Machado is having a career-year at the plate, but the race to be MLB’s best shortstop has stiffened; Simmons is blossoming into a star.