Normally, one would leave a comment in response to an column, rather than writing a full blown piece, but that FanGraphs is devoid of response pieces may mean that FanGraphs is devoid of a possible method of furthering our understanding of baseball. Different opinions and viewpoints lead to different ideas, possibly allowing other readers to think about the game in different ways. So, without further ado…
Jose Ramirez has certainly had an adventurous 2014 professional season. After starting the year in Triple-A Columbus, the 21 year old Dominican had a brief and unsuccessful stint for Cleveland, and was promptly sent back down after the recovery of second baseman Jason Kipnis. Since Asdrubal Cabrera was traded, Ramirez has been an everyday player, and from that point onward, Ramirez has been batting at a 105 wRC+ with a .328 BAbip, a reasonable number for someone with his kind of speed and spray hitting ability. Additionally, while not sterling, his 5.8 BB% and 12.7 K% are acceptable numbers for a rookie shortstop, particularly when compared to the average shortstop, who measures at 6.8% and 18.1% respectively.
Of course, as promising as Ramirez has appeared, he has only accumulated 173 PAs since the Cabrera trade, and his true value offensively may be less than he has shown. As Sarris points out, his defense though is where Ramirez truly shines. His defensive ratings statistically check out, and though it takes years for these ratings to stabilize, there is some possibility that these numbers are accurate or they even undersell his value. Already this year, Ramirez has been worth 1.4 WAR, thanks to his 5.8 UZR (placing him fifth amongst shortstops on the 2014 season). And as Sarris also pointed out, Ramirez has passed the eye test with flying colors.
It appears that Cleveland’s future would be more successful with Ramirez than without him. The Indians also have Francisco Lindor waiting in Triple-A Columbus ready to take his throne as long-term shortstop. Since his defensive value is supposed to make up the majority of his overall value, his floor would seem to be higher than the average shortstop prospect. Even if his bat is just league average, his defense should elevate him to an All-Star level, if everything goes according to plan. Sarris’s metric of 69.3% bust rate amongst shortstops rated in the top 100 prospects includes players at all levels of the minors. Of course, players in the lower minors have more volatile futures as their high praise is based more upon projection than offensive or defensive output. Lindor has made it through the minors, and is ready to assume his throne.
Ramirez’s defensive value lies in his cavernous range and sure-handedness, traits that will suit him almost as well at second base. Kipnis’s skills at second base have been only so-so in his career, and unless he learns the secret of Jhonny Peralta, he is unlikely to improve as his career transpires. A switch to the outfield, or even first base (with Santana switching to a full-time DH role), would be acceptable, as Kipnis’s value lies in his offensive game. However, if anyone should be traded, it is Kipnis, who, like Starlin Castro in Chicago, may be usurped by better, younger players, and whose trade value lies in past success.
Clinical Research Coordinator at University of Cincinnati, but never will surrender my Cleveland Baseball fandom.