The Cleveland Indians are headed to the World Series. But, they would not be where they are right now, if it was not for Jose Ramirez. But, what is his fantasy value heading into 2017?
The Indians are looking to end the longest World Series drought in the AL, and are on their way to completing that task after defeating the Blue Jays. The 2016 campaign is turning into a storybook type season, as they continue to thrive being the underdog. One of the most vital characters this season though, was the breakout performance from Jose Ramirez.
Jose Ramirez entered the season as a super utility man for the Indians, as they seemed set at every position on the diamond. The only real question was at third base, where the team was hesitant to rely on Juan Uribe to be the everyday option. It did not take Cleveland long to realize though, that Ramirez was their best option at the hot corner moving forward.
After a solid April, Ramirez became a full-time starter in May, and would never look back. He would go on to start 150+ games for the Tribe in 2016, and took full advantage of it. In the regular season he posted a, .312/11 HR/76 RBI/22 SB/84 R/.825 OPS line.
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This performance makes him one of the best waiver wire adds this season, and one of the more intriguing options next spring. But, was the breakout legitimate or just a mirage?
It is first important to note, that Ramirez showed a lot of talent in the minor leagues. He is a career .304 hitter in the minors, and posted 101 SB across five minor league campaigns. Those flashes have always intrigued Cleveland fans and the organization alike, so it is not a surprise to see him to now shine.
In terms of his fantasy value, owners will have to decide whether or not he can provide the all around value he did in 2016. While his .312 AVG and 22 SB are nice, Ramirez notched 46 2B this season, a surprising clip from a guy thought of as a slap hitter.
With 60 XBH this season, it is easy to see why his fantasy value is trending up. Whenever a guy has a career best season, it is important to dig into his batted ball data. His K% and BB% nearly mirrored what he did throughout the minors, so his AVG and OBP should remain consistent.
With 46 2B, it is no surprise to see his LD% at 23%, a near 7% increase from what he showed in 2015. He also cut his GB% rate by nearly 7% as well, to 41%, thus allowing him to maintain a 36% FB rate. Another key to his emergence, was that he started to focus on taking the ball to every part of the field, dropping his Pull rate by 5%. while raising his Center and Oppo. by nearly 3%.
All that data points to a more polished approach at the plate, and shows why he was able to flourish. What I like, is that throughout his minor league career he posted a 55%+ Med contact rate, while also chipping in with a 22%+ Hard contact clip, and he was able to repeat that this season in the majors. He does not strike out much, and has the ability to square the ball up, a welcomed recipe for fantasy owners.
Let’s say that he can not match his 60 XBH clip in 2017. That is not necessarily a death-blow to his fantasy value because of his speed, and contact ability. The only reason Ramirez did not have 30+ SB this season, was because he was routinely standing on second base thanks to a double. Look for him to eclipse the 25+ SB next season to go along with his solid AVG numbers, providing him a nice fantasy floor.
His 11 HR were a career high, so owners should not expect a huge power uptick next season. He will flirt with 10+ HR, but his gap-to-gap or slasher type of approach just does not bode for a big power surge. The Indians’ lineup will be solid again next season, maybe even better if they can get Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley back, so his counting stats will be fine.
Ramirez will also carry multi-position eligibility, as he played at least five games at third, short, second, and in left field. Third base and the OF are always going to be stacked with talent, so he may get lost in the shuffle among the best of the best, but do not overlook him. If he qualifies for either MI spots in your league, he jumps up the ranks, becoming a near top-10 option at each position.
Jose Ramirez will probably make his way on to plenty of “bust” lists this offseason, but do not buy into that. There are no glaring outliers in his batted ball data that would speak to his performance this season being a fluke. This was simply a matter of talent and playing time finally clicking at the same time, making his emergence legitimate.