On May 30, 2012, the Braves were in fourth place in the NL East and their rookie shortstop, Tyler Pastornicky, wasn't hitting. But even worse than his .243 average was his defense.
At Baseball Info Solutions, we evaluate a player's defensive contributions in a holistic statistic called defensive runs saved. DRS breaks defense into components such as range and arm and looks at specific types of plays, such as bunts and potential double-play balls. It then combines those factors and puts them in the context of the runs saved or cost for a team by each player.
In just 332 innings at shortstop (roughly 25 percent of the season), Pastornicky cost the Braves 16 runs. Enter Andrelton Simmons. Simmons had much less experience in the upper minors than Pastornicky, but scouts raved about his defensive tools. He did not disappoint. He saved the Braves 19 runs in 426 innings before a broken finger shortened his season.
Because of that stellar defense, Simmons ranks at No. 137 on the BBTN 500, and he has the best defensive projection of any player in baseball. Check out the top five, according to Baseball Info Solutions.
1. Andrelton Simmons | SS, Atlanta Braves
Projected DRS: 20
It may seem like a bold prediction to designate Simmons as the DRS leader before he has even played 50 games in the majors, but when you look at his numbers from his limited time in 2012, you may wonder if we are still too conservative. Simmons saved 19 runs with his stellar defense in only 49 games in 2012, likely one-third of the playing time he'll receive this season. He had the second-most runs saved at shortstop -- still well short of Brendan Ryan's 27 runs saved -- and the 10th-most runs saved at any position.