Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Don’t look now, but Jose Ramirez is becoming one of the best hitters in baseball.
Some, including the author of this particular piece, thought they would see a regression from the switch-hitting third baseman after a breakout season in 2016 in which he showed power, plate discipline and an affinity for high leverage situations.
That has not been the case. Not even close.
Through 22 games, Ramirez is the second-best hitting third-baseman in all of baseball, with a wRC+ (weighted runs created, a stat which aims to give value to each individual outcome instead of viewing them equally) of 179.
That number, with 100 being league average, trails only Miguel Sano (199) at third, and lands Ramirez at 13th in baseball at any position.
What remains the most intriguing part of Ramirez’s game is his power at the plate. At just 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, the 24-year old is boasting a .277 isolated power (ISO, which aims to show extra-base hits per plate appearance), the highest of his career to date.
“At some point, I know the guys lift and everything, but it’s not like you’re going to get stronger, stronger, stronger,” Manager Terry Francona said. “But because he knows the league and he understands the way guys pitch him, you’ve seen him generate more power. It’s not just because of strength, but it’s because he’s a good hitter, and he’s using his legs, he’s getting in good hitter’s counts, and it’s because of that.”
Ramirez has been lethal to opposing pitching at Progressive Field in 2017, hitting .500 at home through 10 games, with half of his team-leading six home runs in Cleveland, as well as 10 of his team-leading 19 RBI.
Though in a small sample size, the switch hitter has squared a great deal of pitches up nicely, hitting 37.8% of batted balls hard, and just 10.8% softly, the highest and lowest numbers of his career in those respective categories.
In the field, Ramirez has made one error in 77 chances in the field. Last season, he made seven errors in 334 chances.
The future looks increasingly bright for the Indians because at the time being, the 24-year old Ramirez and 23-year old Francisco Lindor are their best hitters, and two of the game’s best at the dish.
“So as far as we look, we’re thrilled because I think we hope that – I know that Frankie was on everybody’s radar coming up through the minor leagues, and Jose got here quick, but there was a couple hiccups where he had to go back,” Francona said.
Coming into his breakout 2016, Ramirez was hardly even considered a key cog in the team’s future, despite an expectation to contend. It was the health of the team’s key piece offensively that allowed their starting third baseman to even emerge.
“You never want to see a guy like (Michael) Brantley be hurt, but if not for that, I mean Jose took that and ran with it,” the skipper added. “You never know. Because he had been sent down a few times. I know a lot of people thought he was maybe a utility player. He’s a middle of the order bat.”