Angels hope to be dazzled by glove of new shortstop Simmons
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Andrelton Simmons gets a bit stumped when asked to name his personal favorite defensive play.
After so many dazzling gems in his career with the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Angels' new shortstop can only narrow his choice down to genres.
''I like throwing guys out at home,'' Simmons said. ''I think that makes a big difference. You get the out instead of them getting a run. So there's a couple, whenever I'm doing a relay. I think in Miami last year, I had a pretty good one. So every year I try to get a new one. I try to forget the other ones and try to (say), `OK, the past is the past. Let's make something new.'''
The Angels are counting on a whole new highlight reel this year.
After an offseason in which Los Angeles made few additions to help Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, Simmons appears to be the Angels' biggest potential difference-maker. They traded two top prospects and Erick Aybar, their starting shortstop for the past decade, to add Simmons to a defensive skill pool already including the wall-climbing Trout and Gold Glover Kole Calhoun.
Simmons is generally considered the best defensive player in baseball, a lanky shortstop with nearly limitless range, exceptional athleticism and pitcher-grade arm strength. He leads the majors in runs saved since his debut in 2012, and he ranks among the elites in most advanced defensive statistics.
''I'm very excited to watch that,'' Trout said of Simmons' range. ''Hopefully a couple of base hits up the middle I won't even have to go for, watching him make an unbelievable play.''
With Simmons, Trout, Calhoun and even Pujols in the field, Angels manager Mike Scioscia is eager to try to win more games with defense.
''He's definitely in a select group,'' Scioscia said of Simmons. ''We're just getting to know him, but it sounds like from talking to people, his on-field awareness is incredible. His range is as good as it gets, and he has that strong, accurate arm. All the things that are important for a shortstop.''
Simmons is spending the first weeks of camp learning about the playing styles of his teammates, including a list of candidates to play second base that includes 2015 starter Johnny Giavotella and veteran Cliff Pennington. Simmons likes to know whether his double-play partners prefer to catch his throws high or low.
He is also spending plenty of time in the batting cage, determined to continue chasing the achievements of Derek Jeter, one of his two shortstop idols along with Omar Vizquel.
Simmons' offense has stagnated since he broke into the majors, and while he still harbors hopes of becoming a 100-RBI producer, the Angels would be happy if he simply hits his other goal of becoming a .280 hitter.
''I don't want to look at the end of the year and say, `Let me see my numbers,''' Simmons said. ''I want to look at the end of the year and see how many times I came through for my team and how often I helped my team win a game.''
Simmons said he still hasn't visited Orange County since the trade, so he hasn't figured out where to live in his new home. Although he hasn't personally met his new fans in Anaheim, they know all about him: YouTube is stocked with lengthy video compilations of his defensive genius - a collection of his 2013 highlights runs for nearly 26 minutes.
Instead, the Curacao native spent the offseason mostly with family.
''I'm away from them for the most part, so I get to play with my niece and nephews,'' Simmons said. ''And whenever I get tired, I just give them back, so that's always cool.''