Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Has The Time Come To Give Up On Hanley Ramirez?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

It is easy to argue that Hanley Ramirez had a disastrous 2015 campaign on multiple levels:

  1. The transition to the outfield simply didn’t work (-17.8% UZR)
  2. He missed time due to injury once again (105 games played)
  3. He slashed .249/.291/.426

The Red Sox will continue to find a spot for him on the field, now shifting him to first base. Will he finally be able to find a new defensive home? Time will tell, but now 32-years old and with a lengthy injury history you have to wonder if the bat will even translate at this point.

Average
It’s easy to argue that part of his ’15 struggles were caused by poor luck, with a .257 BABIP, 20.4% line drive rate and 16.5% strikeout rate. However there are other factors that go into the “unlucky” number.

For starters Ramirez posted a 50.0% groundball rate and, at his age and with his injuries, he simply doesn’t have the speed that he once did. He’s not the player that swiped 51 bases in both 2006 and 2007, nor is he the player who stole 32 bases as recently as 2010. He hasn’t topped 15 SB since ’12 and managed just 6 in 9 attempts last season. In other words, his ability to put the ball on the ground and beat it out has diminished greatly.

Ramirez has also generally struggled with popup issues. Last season he posted a 12.1% IFFB%, compared to a career mark of 11.4%. The more popups the lower the BABIP.

While the strikeouts were solid, he does chase outside of the zone more than average (34.3%) and therefore doesn’t always make hard contact. In fact his Soft% of 24.3% ranked him ninth highest in the league last season (among those with 400+ PA).

This isn’t to say that there isn’t upside in his average (he hit .274 in the first half), but there’s also a lot of risk.

Power
His average distance on non-groundballs of 265.874 doesn’t make you think of a massive power hitter. While he hit 19 HR in the first half, 10 of those came in April thanks to a 47.6% HR/FB. Is anyone really buying that type of mark to continue? Injuries probably played a role in his disappearance as the season progressed, but that’s not to say that there’s much upside.

Conclusion
Always the risk to miss time due to injury, Ramirez now couples learning yet another new position with questions about his average and power. Throw in the loss of speed and what exactly are we buying? Positional flexibility? His best fit is likely DH, though we’ll have to wait a year for him to have the opportunity to be inserted into that role.

His bat certainly doesn’t profile as a first baseman at this point in his career and he’s more of an OF4/5. If you are paying anything more than that, look at a different option.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps

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