2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Hanley Ramirez
The Red Sox have been baseball’s yo-yo for the past several seasons. They won 78 games a year ago, 71 games in 2014, but won the World Series back in 2013. You can’t help but notice that a number of their players have experienced the same ups and downs. Fantasy baseball players live on playing the percentages with players like that. It amounts to treating players like they are stock. You always want to buy low and sell high.
Hanley Ramirez is the ultimate buy low candidate. Last year was a disaster for Ramirez on a number of fronts. While defense and fantasy baseball aren’t directly related, we can’t help but recognize that when someone struggles defensively they often struggle offensively and vice versa. Ramirez tried playing left field for the first time and it didn’t go well at all.
He was worth -19 runs last year according to the Fielding Bible and -17.8 runs according to UZR. Of course, this is nothing new for Ramirez. He was also terrible as a third basemen defensively and also often bad as a shortstop. So, the Red Sox are thinking outside the box and are putting him at first base. While this has more to do with the Red Sox than it does you, it also means he will be eligible at multiple positions. In some platforms, he will eligible in left field, first base, and shortstop.
Where He Has Been
Most of Ramirez’s struggles came in his batting average on balls in play. He has a career .327 average on balls in play (BABIP) and yet he struggled through a .257 average last season. That was by far the lowest of his career (.275 in 2011 also being below .300). If he had just hit .300 on balls in play he would have hit around his career norm (between .280 and .290), so while we can’t know how he will perform at first base, we can guess that he will bounce back offensively simply because it doesn’t make sense for him to struggle with his BABIP two seasons in a row.
What Could Be
The experts acknowledge that Ramirez will likely bounce back from his horrible season a year ago. The numbers you see above do not look great for a first baseman or left fielder, but if he has shortstop eligibility in your league then he might be worth taking. As for the Red Sox themselves, their ability to bounce back depends on Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval bouncing back from their dreadful seasons a year ago. None of the projections have Ramirez playing every day and/or remaining healthy, so there is an outside chance he could produce far more than this if he has a full complement of at bats.
The Rosy Picture
You have to admit that these projections are a lot more appealing. Luckily for Ramirez and the Red Sox, David Ortiz has already announced his retirement, so Ramirez only has to play in the field for one more season. We don’t want to disparage first basemen, but it is a lot easier to stay healthy at first base than it is at shortstop or in the outfield. If he is producing numbers like this they will have to keep him in the lineup.