MESA, Ariz. -- Take in a Solar Sox game during the 2022 Fall League and there is an unmistakable persistent chatter buzzing around the team; odds are, it’s from a conversation started by Ronny Simon. The unofficial heartbeat of the Mesa club is the official league leader in RBIs through action Thursday following a 4-RBI performance from the Rays prospect.
Simon kicked off the scoring in Mesa’s 6-3 win over Surprise at Sloan Park with a run-scoring groundout in the first, before his game-changing drive to right in the fourth. Significant winds blew in earlier during the frame, likely knocking down his bases-clearing double that fell just short of the track. After popping multiple balls onto the berm with the sun shining during batting practice, Simon would have to settle for a two-bagger that broke a 3-3 deadlock.
“My approach is always: Bring ‘em home,” Simon said via interpreter Annalee Ramirez. “I try to keep an eye on my runners on base and that’s the goal -- bring ‘em home.”
Listed at just 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, Simon packs significant punch for a player of his size. The infielder cites his fast hands as the explanation behind how he’s able to generate so much extra-base hit pop.
Simon didn’t hit much during his age-18 campaign, his first after signing with the Cubs as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. His second go-round of the Dominican Summer League in 2019 went much better, as he notched a .983 OPS over 54 games. But then the pandemic-canceled season struck -- followed by a trade to the D-backs -- delaying his stateside debut until ‘21.
After showing glimpses of a tantalizing power/speed combo in his lone year in the Arizona organization, Simon burst onto the scene this past year, his first with the Rays. Across 109 games between High-A Bowling Green and Double-A Montgomery, Simon, a switch-hitter, collected 22 home runs and 34 stolen bases, while hitting .260.
“When I got [to the Rays], I realized that I had a lot of good, competitive teammates and I wanted to make sure that I kept up with them,” Simon said. “It was a year that was filled with challenges but still, I was able to grow. There was a lot I was able to improve.”
Simon spent the majority of the season alternating between second and third base defensively. He made six starts at shortstop at High-A, but none over the season’s final two months. Then he arrived in Arizona and has taken over as Mesa’s primary shortstop, while also earning starting nods at his now-familiar home of second and third.
“I’ve really been working on becoming a better shortstop,” Simon said. “Not only have my coaches here in the dugout told me it’s been something I’ve gotten better at, but even coaches from other teams have mentioned to me. So it’s something I’m very proud of and something I’ll continue to work on.”
In 69 innings at short during the Fall League, Simon has made just one error and helped to turn eight double plays.
About that personality. Acquired by Tampa Bay in exchange for Jordan Luplow in November 2021, the native of La Romana, Dominican Republic, has grown adept at being the new kid in the clubhouse, having played on six different teams over the past two seasons alone. A smile is all but permanently on the 22-year-old’s face when at the yard, either while keeping a running banter with teammates or honing facets of his game alongside the coaching staff.
“I really always try to be joyful with a smile on my face,” Simon said. “If that’s what I can bring to the team -- you know, if I see somebody bummed out or that’s not smiling, I try to [make them] smile.”