Position: Right-handed Pitcher
It's been an interesting 12-14 months for Simons, having put together an outstanding stretch with High-A Lakeland after coming over from the Rockies in exchange for big league reliever Jason Grilli. With Lakeland, Simons posted a 2.36 ERA and allowed only 29 hits in 53 1/3 innings of work, while striking out 61.
There's been much more to the last year than that, though, as Simons was then added to the Tigers 40-man roster in November 2008; protecting him from the December Rule 5 draft and serving as at least a partial endorsement by the organization.
Simons turned in another strong campaign in 2009, notching a 4-2 record, four saves, and a 2.73 ERA while splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. Simons continued playing with a trip to Venezuela to participate in the Venezuelan Winter League; a trip that was much shorter than expected. Simons was largely ineffective in the VWL, and upon returning home, he learned he had come down with cholera.
Prior to moving to the bullpen for the 2007 season, Simons had struggled as a starter, posting a 6.29 ERA in 111 2/3 innings of work for Asheville in the South Atlantic League. Coming out of junior college, the Rockies made Simons a second round pick, hoping he could turn his raw tools into MLB production.
Simons has a classic power reliever arsenal, centering on a big fastball and an above-average slider. Though he has a change-up, it is a well below-average pitch and not one he can rely on with any regularity.
Simons will get his fastball up to 95-96 at times, but he works regularly at 92-93 with some sink that allows him to induce ground balls. He struggles to command his fastball with in the strike zone, but he can throw strikes and attack hitters. In the past, Simons has been guilty of trying to overthrow, often leaving his ball up in the zone and very hittable. He has gotten better with this over the last two years.
Simons is every bit the part of a late inning reliever, with an aggressive approach to pitching and a short memory. He credits the Tigers organization with helping him learn how to pitch instead of just throw, and it shows in the results over the last two years.
Most scouts see a solid setup reliever capable of working more than one inning and working on back-to-back days. There is little remaining for Simons to prove at the minor league level, and he is nearly ready for his shot in the big leagues.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
Simons lost around 15 pounds during his bout with cholera, and is spending the rest of the offseason putting those pounds back on. He tired late in the 2009 season and it showed even more in Venezuela. The 2010 season will be an interesting test for him, as he tries to rebound from illness and a long year. His arm has had little trouble over the years, and he has proven to be a durable reliever.
Despite being removed from the 40-man roster this off-season, there is a very strong chance that Simons will be a non-roster invitee to big league spring training. He will be a long shot to make the roster to open the season, but he should see some time in Detroit at some point in 2010. The Tigers are loaded with young relievers that are on the verge of the big leagues, and Simons will routinely be in heavy competition for his spot in the big leagues.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.