I was having a conversation with a friend and league-mate recently and he was talking about who he was thinking about keeping. One of the names he mentioned was Hanley Ramirez. I have to admit that I was a little surprised at that, as Hanley has lost a lot of luster over the last few years. Still, he justified his point well enough and this is a fantasy baseball player that always knows what he’s doing, so I bought into it.
But it made me ask one question to myself: Is Hanley Ramirez an elite player, or just a good player at a really bad position? Let’s take a look.
For the most part projections go back three seasons. So, let’s look at what Hanley did from 2010 through 2012 in the standard fantasy statistics.
Obviously things are a little inconsistent there. For example, injuries weren’t a huge concern outside of 2011. If you average 2010 and 2012 out, Hanley played right around 150 games per year. On the other hand, if you eliminate 2010′s average from that mix, Ramirez’s average over the 2011 and 2012 seasons was .252, which isn’t exactly what you’re after from a top-36 pick, which is basically what a keeper in the aforementioned league is.
But before we project what Hanley will do in 2013, let’s take a more in depth look at some of the good and not so good points that he brings to the table.
With the exception of Troy Tulowitzki (if he stays healthy) you simply can’t bank on better power numbers from any shortstop in the league. In 2012, Ian Desmond (25 homers) and Trevor Plouffe (24 homers) were the only shortstop-eligible on par with Hanley’s home run numbers. RBI wasn’t even close, as Starlin Castro was second with 78.
One thing I’m really looking at to improve are the runs scored. I’m guessing Los Angeles will start the season with Hanley batting second and Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier behind him. So whenever Ramirez reaches base, there will be a guy with serious home run capabilities up there to drive him in. Before he was traded, that wasn’t really the case with the Marlins. Hanley was usually batting behind Jose Reyes and in front of Giancarlo Stanton but after Stanton, the power dropped off. So, pitchers could be careful. They won’t really have that luxury in 2013.
You could certainly make a case that the Dodgers’ bats were pretty dead last year after all of those players were in town. That may be true, but that sample size is barely over a month. Over 162 games, you have to figure that the lineup will be more potent. As a result, Hanley will score more runs.
Both Tulo and Hanley have had some injury issues, but Tulo’s have been far more present. Still, even if we concede that Tulo will be on the field for most of the year, he is the only shortstop in the league that can match the total package of runs, homers, and RBI that Hanley brings to the table. When you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 runs, 25 homers, and 80 RBI, you’re looking at someone well on his way to being an elite player.
But that doesn’t quite tell the full story.
First I’ll cover steals, which based on the last few years looks like it should be in Hanley’s good corner. But it’s not that simple.
Basically, they’re going in the wrong direction. You can see the numbers yourself. Sure, 21 steals is pretty good, but it’s only one more than he had the previous year despite playing in 65 more games. And again, 21 looks good, but it’s a far cry from the 51 that he swiped in both 2006 and 2007.
To put it simply, Hanley’s getting older. He’ll be 29 this coming season, and players just don’t continue to steal at a high rate as the years go on. Now that he’s batting in front of an All-Star heart of the order, I just can’t see the Dodgers stealing that many bases. They were below the league average in 2012 and now they’ll have a full year with those guys. Looking at numbers, I wouldn’t expect anything more than 15 stolen bases, and that’s a best-case-scenario.
But what really concerns me is the drop in average. Granted, he hit .271 with the Dodgers last year, but that’s nowhere near good enough to think that he’s really on the upswing. In 2009, he led the league with a .342 batting average. In 2011 Hanley’s OBP was .333. In 2012, it was .322 total and only .324 while with the Dodgers. That is an alarming downward trend.
Will he see better pitches this year? Possibly, but his immediate protection over the last few years has been pretty solid and the average was still poor.
What’s funny is that his strikeout totals aren’t that bad. His career high was 132 in 2012, and even that’s not too bad. Hanley can hit the bad pitches, he just doesn’t do it well. I’m guessing the NL West’s pitchers like Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy, and Wade Miley will be able to exploit that in a pretty good way.
The Final Verdict
The declining batting average really concerns me, but Hanley’s pretty good elsewhere. I’ve gone over why I don’t like stolen bases and even without that bias, I do expect his numbers there to decline, but not so bad that his value is seriously diminished.
The runs, homers, and RBI are just too strong, especially from a shortstop. Don’t get me wrong, I’d say his window as an elite player is closing but for 2013, he’s still a Top-30 player. If you have him in a keeper league, you should keep him.
Dixon’s Early Projection Range for Hanley Ramirez
|Best Case Scenario||560||157||60||110||27||92||15||.280|
|Worst Case Scenario||435||105||39||55||12||41||7||.241|