Jose Ramirez is generally viewed as one of the elite players in the game, a billing he certainly has earned. All you have to do is look at last year’s numbers as a reason why the praise is being bestowed on him:
578 At Bats
.270 Batting Average (156 Hits)
39 Home Runs
34 Stolen Bases
.387 On Base Percentage
.552 Slugging Percentage
.252 Batting Average on Balls in Play
It was an elite season in every way, something that no one is going to try to take away from him. That said, it also is fair to wonder if he’s going to be able to replicate the gaudy marks across the board. Obviously a .252 BABIP would make you think that there was a little bit of bad luck at play, helping to support him coming at least close to the performance. Things aren’t always quite so simple and there are a few numbers that should raise at least a small red flag.
He’s currently displaying an elite approach, with a 4.7% SwStr% and 22.3% O-Swing% last season. No one is about to complain about that, and it’s something he’s consistently shown throughout his career. At the same time it appeared that he was starting to swing for the fences last season, and while he continued to make contact these numbers help to explain the poor BABIP:
Rising Fly Ball Rate
(39.7% to 45.9%)
The number got even higher as the season progressed, with a 51.3% fly ball rate in September (48.2% overall in the second half). Interestingly, his HR/FB dropped as he began to put more and more balls in the air:
- First Half – 21.0%
- Second Half – 10.8%
The first half mark, which led to 29 HR, was always going to be hard to buy into. That alone tells us he may be closer to a 25-29 HR hitter, regardless of the fly ball rate. If he continues to put so many balls in the air it’s simply going to mean that his BABIP will continue to struggle, and therefore draw down his average.
Rising Pull Rate (46.3% to 50.0%)
The more you pull the baseball the more prone to the shift you become. Back in 2016, his first full season in the Majors, his Pull% was a promising 39.0%. Last season he totaled 80.2% between his Pull% and Cent%, meaning he’s going to face a lot of extreme shifts. That will further suppressing his BABIP potential.
We’ve already mentioned a drop in power (which will lead to fewer RBI), and despite his approach his average will also be limited. It all comes together for the following projection for 2019:
.271 (156-575), 28 HR, 85 RBI, 95 R, 27 SB, .267 BABIP, .368 OBP, .499 SLG
Of course no one is about to complain about those numbers, as Ramirez will remain a five-category performer and a first round talent. The key here is simply not to expect a repeat of last season’s Top 5 type performance. He’s among the elite and someone you want to own, just don’t be surprised if there’s at least a small regression across the board.
Source – Fangraphs