James Mitchell Simons
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 9", Weight 172 lb.
- School Oklahoma State University
Infielder Mitch Simons played eleven seasons of minor league ball, including seven at the AAA level (where he was an All-Star), but never reached the majors.
Simons hit .289 as a college freshman in 1988. In 1989, he improved to .368 with 32 steals in 39 tries and 81 runs in 64 games. He tied Dan Peltier for 10th in NCAA Division I in runs then was MVP of the Big Eight Conference tournament, setting a record with 10 runs. As a junior, he hit .353/~.476/.563 with 89 runs, 22 doubles, 29 steals and 64 walks in 73 games. He led NCAA Division I in runs (two ahead of Brian Kowitz) and was 5th in walks. He was named All-Big Eight and was picked third-team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He hit .400 in the 1990 College World Series; in the finale, which OSU lost 2-1 to the University of Georgia, he was 2 for 3 with the lone Sooner run. He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 40th round of the 1990 amateur draft but did not sign. He was ruled ineligible to play as a senior, though, because he had entered negotiations; Simons had filed suit against OSU and the NCAA but a judge denied his case. He was then taken by the Montréal Expos in the 23rd round of the 1991 amateur draft. In 2000, he would be inducted into the Oklahoma State Hall of Fame.
Simons split his first pro summer between the Jamestown Expos (.307/.443/.405, 23 SB, 38 R, 39 BB in 41 G) and West Palm Beach Expos (9 for 50, 2 2B, 3B, 4 SB in 15 G). He tied Antonio Grissom and Jay Edwards for 6th in the New York-Penn League in steals and would have been 8th in average had he qualified. With the 1992 Albany Polecats, he batted .283/.364/.364 with 26 doubles, 34 steals in 46 tries and 60 walks to 47 whiffs. He fielded .979, leading second basemen in the South Atlantic League. In 1993, he appeared for the West Palm Beach club (.256/.344/.314 in 45 G) and the Harrisburg Senators (.234/.294/.273 in 29 G).
Simons moved on to the Minnesota Twins organization in the off-season. In 1994, he did a fine job for the Nashville Xpress, producing at a .317/.383/.407 clip and stealing 30 bases in 39 tries. He was third in the Southern League in average (behind Trey Beamon and Chris Stynes), fourth in OBP (behind Scott Tedder, Tim Belk and Mark Johnson) and tied for 5th in steals (with Michael Jordan, the NBA legend). He did not make the SL All-Star team at 2B, as Stynes was chosen instead.
The next year, the Oklahoman had a strong season with the Salt Lake Buzz in his first AAA campaign, hitting .325/.395/.431 with 34 doubles, 87 runs and 32 steals in 48 tries. He was second in the Twins chain in steals and in runs (one behind Brian Raabe). In the 1995 PCL, he ranked 6th in average (between Dave Hajek and Karim Garcia), 7th in OBP (between Bobby Abreu and Roger Cedeno), tied for 4th in runs (with Dale Sveum and Bill Bean), was 6th in runs and was second in steals (5 behind leader Trent Hubbard). The 1995 AAA All-Star Game, he started at 2B and led off for the AL farmhands, forming a double play combo with Derek Jeter. He went 0 for 2 before Joe Lis Jr. replaced him during a 9-0 win. He did not make the '95 PCL All-Star team as Hajek was picked at 2B. He also would not make the majors, as Chuck Knoblauch was ensconced at second base in Minnesota. Between Simons' age (26) and Knoblauch's presence, he would never get a shot at the bigs. He hit .271 that fall for the Peoria Javelinas.
Simons remained productive in 1996, moving to short for Salt Lake with Raabe being called up to play 2B; he was behind Knoblauch at 2B and Pat Meares at short. His offensive numbers were down that year, to .264/.328/.377 with 8 triples, 76 runs and 35 steals (caught 11 times). He tied Brent Brede for third in the Twins chain in three-baggers, one behind Cleatus Davidson and Todd Walker. He was also tied for second in steals, with Luis Rivas, one behind Armann Brown. In the 1996 PCL, he was third in swipes behind Kerwin Moore and Tony Womack. He also led the league's shortstops in fielding percentage at .970 despite his new position.
In 1997, Mitch returned to second for Salt Lake and batted .299/.366/.448 with 34 doubles, 10 triples, 26 steals in 31 tries and 87 runs. He was among the Twins farm leaders in runs (tied for 4th with Doug Mientkiewicz), doubles (tied with Dan Cey for second, 4 behind David Ortiz), triples (4th) and steals (tied for 5th). He was tied with Todd Helton for 8th in the 1997 Pacific Coast League in runs scored, tied Manny Martinez and Steve Cox for 10th in doubles, tied Edgard Clemente for second in triples (though with only half the total of leader Jovino Carvajal) and ranked 6th in steals.
Five organizations in four years
Simons' last four seasons were those of a wandering AAA veteran. In 1998, he played for the Baltimore Orioles' Rochester Red Wings (.216/.292/.295 in 59 G) and the Seattle Mariners' Tacoma Rainiers (.233/.305/.322 in 47 G) in an off-year. With the 1999 Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox), he rebounded to hit .289/.363/.405 with 32 doubles, 22 steals in 28 tries and 85 runs for the 1999 IL titlists. He tied Lyle Mouton for 7th in the IL in steals that year. Moving to the New York Mets chain, he spent 2000 with the Norfolk Tides, hitting .267/.332/.340. He saw limited action with the Texas Rangers' Oklahoma RedHawks (.240/.308/.298 in 34 G) to end his career.
In 11 seasons as a pro, Simons had hit .281/.355/.379 with 622 runs and 455 RBI in 1,1087 games; he had 241 doubles, 39 triples and only 29 home runs. He drew 434 walks while striking out 472 times and stole 252 bases in 342 tries (73.7% success rate). He fielded .980 in 661 games at 2B, .954 in 217 at SS, .967 in 91 in the OF and .945 in 82 at 3B. He also pitched one game in 1996, allowing four runs in his one inning of work.