Nobody with any baseball sense would question how important leadoff hitters are. The question for the Braves….. Who is going to hit leadoff? Andrelton Simmons seems like the likely candidate as of right now, but could the Braves make another move?
Let’s focus on the idea that Simmons is the Braves lead-off hitter coming into this season. Can you put that kind of pressure on such a young player? I think it depends on whether Andrelton can stay healthy. If he stays healthy, his confident, athletic demeanor could be the answer for the Braves at the top of the order.
His numbers compare to lead-off hitters who have won World Series. I care about OBP (On Base Percentage) more than anything with a lead-off hitter. In 49 games last year, Simmons had an OBP of .335, and that is comparable to the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, whose lead-off hitter Angel Pagan had an OBP of .338. Then you look at the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals lead-off hitter, Ryan Theriot, who had an OBP of .321.
Now I understand that playing 49 games is a lot different than playing 150 games. But for Braves fans, all you can ask of Simmons is to be a consistent contact hitter, who gets on base 33% of the time. If that happens, I feel confident that McCann, Freeman, Heyward, and the Uptons would be happy to oblige with some RBI’s. If Uggla adds to that on a consistent basis, then that will be a bonus. The Braves are not far away from postseason success, but consistency is important, and that starts at the top of the order.
With Chipper Jones out of the picture, Andrelton Simmons seems to be the next shining star in Atlanta. A lot of pressure will be put on this youngster, but at least at first glance, I would say he can handle it. Only time will tell.