Shortstop Position Battle: Atlanta Braves

Position battles are always a hot topic this time of year. It’s highly unlikely that all 30 teams are set at a particular position this early in spring training. Rookies and veterans alike are always snatching each other’s jobs as they vie for a coveted spot on the major league roster. Today we’ll be looking at shortstop battles, where there are surprisingly few thus far.

I say surprisingly because it’s one of, if not the, weakest position on the diamond. The only one of note so far is between Tyler Pastornicky and Andrelton Simmons in Atlanta.

After wisely declining to retain the services of Alex Gonzalez, the Braves’ shortstop job was Pastornicky’s to lose entering camp. The 22-year-old impressed in 2011, hitting a combined .314/.359/.414 in 512 plate appearances in Double-A and Triple-A. However, he hasn’t done much to impress thus far, going 3-26 with three errors. He’s being outshined by the also 22-year-old Simmons, who has considerably less experience.

Simmons had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .311 to win the Carolina League (High-A) batting title while stealing 26 bases and posting a wRC+ of 112. He has little power, hitting just three home runs in 839 career plate appearances, but at 6’2 has the capability to fill out his frame and add a bit more strength. In addition to his work so far, also working in his favor are the glowing reviews by teammates like Chipper Jones, who was quoted as saying “He’s got it. He’s major league-ready defensively, there’s no doubt about that. When everybody says that he’s major league-ready defensively, they’re saying it for a reason.”

Our own Mark Anderson wrote an excellent scouting tale of the tape between the two players last week. He concluded that while Pastornicky has a slight edge offensively it’s not great enough to outweigh Simmons’ superior defense and projectibility. The ZiPS projection system we rely on here at FanGraphs also gives the edge to Pastornicky in wOBA, .299 to .281, mostly due to the power advantage he’s shown thus far. The runs, runs batted in and stolen base totals are virtually identical. Neither is going to provide you with exceptional numbers in any one category. Pastornicky could possibly hit 10 home runs if given the chance, and both have the potential to swipe 20 bags which could come in handy in deeper leagues. No matter who wins the job they shouldn’t be taken among the top 25 shortstops in any non-NL only format.

Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

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Simmons is going to pull a Furcal, make the jump form A-ball, and win the ROY. A man can dream