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Over/Under 2021 Preview: José Ramírez

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Will José Ramírez be worth more or less than 5.6 fWAR in 2021?

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Based on ZiPS projections, José Ramírez is expected to finish 2021 with the following stats:

619 PA, 32 HR, 26 SB, 11.6 BB%, 14.7 K%, .287/.373/.559, 137 wRC+, 5.6 fWAR

Read what our writers think, then vote in the poll below and drop your own opinions in the comments and on the Let’s Go Tribe Discord.

Matt Lyons’s Prediction: OVER

Disrespect is nothing new for José Ramírez. When he first started breaking out as a permanent fixture in Cleveland’s World Series-bound lineup, The Ringer was still calling him a “utility player”. When there was a discussion about who lost their helmet the best, José Ramírez was again snubbed to a cheater who wore a helmet that was too big for his head.

When he led all of baseball last year in fWAR, he lost the MVP Award to Jose Abreu.

Luckily, ZiPS is not an overpaid analyst who thinks that Corey Seager is a better player than him. It is an unthinking, unfeeling, killing machine that has killed dozens and hid their bodies at the bottom of Lake Erie this is a cry for help, ZiPS I’m coming for you, you monster you can’t hide forever really big calculator. It doesn’t take factors like “forgot to include more than two Dodgers in my top-10 list” or whatever Joel Sherman believed when he made his sham of a list last week. It only has numbers and death trends on its side.

A 5.4-win season is a tall order, though, even for someone as good as José Ramírez. It’s not normally an MVP season (especially when you play in the same league as Mike Trout), but it’s enough to keep you in the conversation. And when you have that same caliber season in four of the last five years, it usually keeps you in the conversation as one of the game’s best players.

ZiPS appears to be putting José between the two types of players he has been in his career. Early on, he was Michael Brantley Lite — refusing to strike out and making contact all over the plate with dreams of hitting 20 homers one day. Then, in 2018, he turned into a powerhouse who sold out for more of the Three True Outcomes, culminating in an 8.1 fWAR season in which he slashed .270/.387/.552, hit 39 homers, and walked 15.2% of the time.

He may have been even better last year — his 164 wRC+ topped his 2018 high of 147, but in a shortened sample we’ll never how much he would have kept it up over a full season. It seems pretty reasonable to me that he might regress a bit back down to “only” a 137 wRC+, walk a bit less, but also strike out less than he did in 58 games last year.

But I’m also willing to say that is a baseline for what his production could be, not the ceiling. He’s been capable of tearing up pitchers for weeks at a time in the past, and one or two of those streaks in 2021 suddenly vaults him back into the MVP race, and with a WAR well over 5.6.

Blake Ruane’s Prediction: UNDER

Joel Sherman with the MLB Network recently released his list of “Top 10 Players Right Now.” José Ramírez was not among them, and at least one person on Twitter asked, “How many times does José Ramírez have to be an MVP finalist to prove he’s a Top Ten player?”

It’s a combination of factors, in my opinion. Before he was traded to the Mets, Francisco Lindor was the face of the franchise. For whatever reason, the organization deemed Lindor the more marketable talent. I can’t necessarily blame them for putting all their chips on the player with the nickname Mr. Smile. But in terms of public relations, Lindor has dwarfed Ramírez, and that has had an undeniable impact on his public perception.

Lindor’s star status has also helped obscure the fact that he has been inconsistent in terms of offensive production, which culminated in last year’s career-worst 1.8 fWAR. Conversely, Ramírez finished the season with 3.4 fWAR, besting Lindor and matching his own production from 2019. Ramírez’s own struggles with consistency have been well-publicized, which contributes to the perception problem when only that aspect of his game is being publicized.

Now that the Lindor trade has cleared the path for Ramírez to take center stage as the undisputed best bat in Cleveland’s lineup, consistency is the only obstacle standing in the way of stardom. I’m not yet convinced he will take that step forward in 2021.

His best season in terms of fWAR was 2018 when he was worth 8.1 wins. That was even with his two-month slump tacked on at the end, which then continued through the start of the 2019 season. Last year seemed like a return to form, but I’d be ignoring my own advice by placing much value on an abbreviated season that was anything but ordinary.

Additionally, I’m skeptical of some of his other ZiPS projections. For example, he has only slugged more than 29 home runs once in his career, and ZiPS has him pegged for 32. His 11.6% projected walk rate is also a bit low for the best bat in the lineup and a far cry from his 15.2% walk rate in 2018, when pitchers avoided him like the plague. My point is that I don’t feel a lot of confidence in a lot of these projections because Ramírez has been so inconsistent.

His prolonged slump between 2018 and 2019 has also been attributed in part to “spending too much time inside his own head.” How will the absence of Lindor affect him, both in the clubhouse and in the lineup? Will he put too much pressure on himself to produce now that he is expected to carry a lineup loaded with question marks? I believe Ramírez is capable of a 5.6 fWAR season (or better), but I’m not ready to bet on it at this point.

Poll

Will José Ramírez finish 2021 with an fWAR over or under 5.6?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    Over
    (132 votes)
  • 26%
    Under
    (47 votes)
179 votes total Vote Now