I don't think anyone else has taken a dive back into the Jose Ramirez prediction contest yet, but the good news that we're all idiots. I'm worse than most.
Back in February on another corner of the internet, I predicted that he might narrowly beat out Urshela for a timeshare at third. Now, Ramirez is arguably the best hitter on the Indians, and his importance to the roster grows now that Michael Brantley’s shoulder health is once again in question.
Just how good has Ramirez been? Is it possible that the play I once pegged for platoon purgatory is having an All-Star season?
First, let's acknowledge that Jose Ramirez hasn't had a set position this season. He's played thirteen games in left field (starting in twelve), and eighteen games at third base (starting in nine). There are a couple of other players that split time between the two positions — Kris Bryant comes to mind — but no other player has a split quite like Ramirez. Moving forward I think we'll see him in left field a bit more often, which is sad; I'd like for him to have a perfectly even split, forcing us to think of him as a "Left Winger" rather than someone confined to a single position. Besides, we've already seen that he's got two of the skills necessary for the soccer position — he can use both feet and trap the ball with his body:
This juggling between already-crowded roster spots means that Ramirez has fewer plate appearances than his rivals. With fewer than 100 PAs, Ramirez technically does not qualify for the leaderboard in offensive categories. Players spending every day in the fielder have around 130-150 PAs, meaning Ramirez has had about 30% fewer opportunities to contribute at the plate. If he qualified, he would be second in batting average, third in on-base percentage, and fourth in slugging percentage among all American League left fielders. I don't want to throw too much weight behind the defensive statistics — we have an exceptionally small sample size — but Ramirez is second in total zone runs, as well.
What does this mean for Ramirez's overall value? We'll have to look at him compared against every day players at both positions. Here is his left field resume, courtesy of Fangraphs:
Writer's note: We can add "HTML Tables" to laws and sausages as things you lose respect for when you see how they are made. Numbers are current as of Sunday morning.
|2||Michael Saunders||Blue Jays||0.9||31||130||5||17||11||0||10%||28.5%||0.222||0.44||0.325||0.392||0.547||0.404||161||-2.1||6.9||-2.3|
|9||Melky Cabrera||White Sox||0.5||37||154||2||19||13||0||10.4%||9.1%||0.095||0.322||0.299||0.373||0.394||0.339||115||0.6||3.2||-3.2|
|10||Brock Holt||Red Sox||0.5||31||117||3||17||19||2||10.3%||14.5%||0.13||0.289||0.27||0.345||0.4||0.327||103||1.1||1.5||-1.1|
By allowing Fangraph's table to show players without enough plate appearances, we can more easily evaluate Ramirezin relation to his peers. Note that Brandon Guyer of the Tampa Bay Rays — another "unqualified" hitter — sneaks into the top five LF list along with him. On the whole, the statistics are encouraging for the Indians. Ramirez isn't benefitting from an absolutely ludicrous BABIP like Michael Saunders. He strikes out at the lowest rate of all players in the top ten, and is a net positive in the field, at the plate, and on the basepaths. Better yet: at age 23, he is by far the youngest of the bunch.
It's clear then that at this early point in the season, Jose Ramirez ranks as one of the best left fielders in the American League. The only gripe one might have is the low-ish walk rate.
Now, let's consider him as a third baseman.
Writer's note: I hate tables. I hate tables so much, that — Flames. Flames, on the side of my face...
|2||Travis Shaw||Red Sox||1.8||37||151||5||22||26||3||9.3%||23.2%||0.239||0.415||0.328||0.404||0.567||0.414||166||0.2||11.3||0.8|
|3||Josh Donaldson||Blue Jays||1.6||38||171||9||33||21||3||12.9%||20.5%||0.259||0.291||0.265||0.368||0.524||0.383||146||1.1||10||-0.5|
|8||Todd Frazier||White Sox||0.9||37||161||12||23||32||2||11.2%||19.3%||0.284||0.192||0.22||0.311||0.504||0.347||120||-0.4||3.3||-0.4|
First, take a second to recognize how stacked the position is. A council of elders determined that a player worth around 5 WAR over the course of a season can be considered an All-Star caliber talent. A solid everyday starter is worth about two wins over the course of a season. If I break my old statistic teacher's heart and extrapolate the data over 162 games, the worst player on this list is on pace for 3.7. Yes, we are in a golden age for third basemen, and even without playing every day, Ramirez ranks favorably. This is especially true when you notice that Juan Uribe is 18th on the list.
Ramirez's strange positional splits make the defensive portion of this a little bit harder to figure, and it is possible that there is some mathemagic regarding the offensive numbers and positions in WAR that I'm incapable of understanding that renders this kind of comparison useless. I don't think that's the case.
It cannot be denied that at age 23, Jose Ramirez is having an excellent season. With Brantley on the disabled list there is absolutely no excuse to keep him out of the lineup for any reason other than rest. Even after Brantley returns, Terry Francona needs to find a way to play him. Right now, with a below-average usage rate, Ramirez is an above-average contributor to the team. If used every day he is capable of putting up numbers deserving of a roster spot in San Diego. Let us all take a moment to be thankful that the Tribe didn't "Brandon Phillips" the Angry Hamster, and may his helmet find friends wherever it rolls.