The Atlanta Braves are predicted by the experts to really struggle in 2015. Despite dire predictions, there is significant talent on this team that could elevate above and beyond expectations.
In looking at the roster and evaluating the available talent, is there one player that could break out and have the huge year that ignites the team? In other words, who could be the Braves key player in 2015?
Freddie Freeman is an All-Star first baseman, Craig Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in baseball and Julio Teheran is an elite starter. All three must be solid if the Braves are going to have a good year.
Cross out Kimbrel and Teheran as this season’s key player, pitching isn’t the big question mark, the Braves need run production. So is Freeman key in 2015? No, for the simple reason that teams are not going to let Freddie Freeman beat them in 2015. It will have to be someone else.
Andrelton Simmons is the key Braves player in 2015. He has already won two Golden Gloves and has the physical talent to break out at the plate and have a huge season. He is now listed at 6’2″, 195 pounds and looks as much like a corner infielder, as he does a slick fielding shortstop.
While Simmons has been an okay hitter so far in his major league career (.252 avg, .297 OBP, .372 slug %) he is capable of much more. Simmons hit .299 in his three minor league seasons with a .352 OBP and .397 slugging percentage and I expect him to put up better numbers than that this season..
Simmons is currently hitting .417 this spring with a .432 OBP, .611 slugging percentage and 2 homers with 12 RBIs. Just meaningless spring numbers, except that his approach and fundamentals look much better than they have at any time in his major league career. His stance and balance are now solid, he isn’t desperately flailing at pitches trying to jerk everything into the left field parking lot.
Simmons has the talent to put up sizable numbers, and if the braves are going to elevate this season, his production at the plate is key. Maturity and approach have been the main problems in the past, but now at 25 years old and with new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, expect Simmons to have a big season.