There was little doubt that 23 year-old reliever Shae Simmons was headed up the ladder to an eventual appearance in Atlanta, but it was still surprising it happened so fast. The news struck twitter around midnight on Friday night and those awake were immediately excited about the pending arrival of Simmons, who will skip Gwinnett to join the Braves for the second-of-three with the Marlins Saturday afternoon.
Simmons was a 22nd rounder out of little Southeast Missouri State in the 2012 draft and the right-hander wasn’t drafted because of his stats, but because the scouts were intrigued enough to give Simmons a shot. The Missouri native, who majored in criminal justice while pitching for the Redhawks, was miscast as a starter and saw his stock rise while playing summer ball and appearing as a reliever when he could delivery max effort and a fastball that, at the time, comfortably sat at 96 mph.
It would soon add a couple of digits as Simmons joined the Braves organization after the 2012 draft and dealt with some control issues while striking out 36 in 24.2 ING in rookie ball. With the Braves cleaning up his delivery and his continued maturity, Simmons would break out last season, starting with Rome and ending with Mississippi with no natural stop in Lynchburg. In 50 games, Simmons posted a brilliant 0.99 WHIP, 13.8 K/9, and improved 3.7 BB/9. He continued that work in 20 games this season with Mississippi as he struck out 30 in 23 innings compared to six walks. In 101 innings in the minors, Simmons has K’d 148 and never given up a homerun.
In addition to that fastball that includes great natural sink, Simmons mixes in a slider that is growing more consistent. Occasionally, he’ll mix in a changeup that, when mixed with his fastball, leaves batters flailing over the plate. The diminutive righty has received comparisons to Craig Kimbrel, which is about as high of a compliment as a reliever can receive.
In related news, for the second time this season, Ian Thomas is headed back to the minors. I like Thomas and believe he can be an effective pitcher at this level. However, he needs a breaking pitch and the slider isn’t there just yet.
As of right now (and I’m writing this late into the night), the Braves have yet to make a corresponding 40-man roster move, though there are options. As discussed in a previous post, the Braves could DFA Jordan Schafer from the roster and call up one of the outfielders already on the 40-man roster. They could also DFA a struggling pitcher who is taking up room on the 40 man-roster. Braves lefty Carlos Perez has not pitched in a month and a half and could be ripe for a trip to the 60-day DL.
Either way, the Braves have proven over the last few days that they are not going to sit back idly while waiting for some ridiculous Super 2 deadline to pass. The time to compete is now and Tommy La Stella and Simmons make the Braves better than Tyler Pastornicky and Thomas.