Simmons can surpass Ozzie Smith

Atlanta SS is on course to rank as the best defensive shortstop ever

Updated: March 18, 2014, 10:24 AM ET
By Paul Swydan | ESPN Insider

Andrelton Simmons Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsAndrelton Simmons has put up historic defensive numbers in his first two seasons.

One thing that jumps out in scanning Baseball Tonight's ranking of the top 10 shortstops for 2014 is just how important defense is. It's hard to be a successful team without good up-the-middle defense, particularly at shortstop, and most of the guys in this top 10 are the premier defenders on their team. That's not an accident. Chief among the defensive stalwarts is Andrelton Simmons.

Given Simmons' early success, the question has become not just "is he the premier shortstop defender in the majors today?" but rather, "can Simmons be the best defensive shortstop of all time?"

Blasphemous, you say. What about Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Mark Belanger and Luis Aparicio? After just two seasons in the majors, Simmons ranks seventh among active players in total zone at shortstop. In the UZR era, he ranks 11th at shortstop. Since he didn't have the opportunity to play in the first decade of the UZR era (which spans from 2002 to the present), that's pretty impressive.