Hanley Ramirez has been a star from day one in Florida, putting up remarkably impressive seasons in his first two years with the Marlins and establishing himself as one of the game’s elite young talents. He built on an already strong rookie season last year, lowering his strikeout rate and raising his power, and even with defense that suggests he belongs in the outfield, a .332/.386/.562 season from a 23-year-old who plays half his games in a pitcher’s park is pretty special, and when you toss in the 51 stolen bases, you have a guy who can lay claim as the league’s most versatile offensive weapon.
So, when Ramirez led the surprising Marlins to a first place April with a blistering start, the natural assumption was that this kid was just continuing to develop into a potential hall of fame talent. He hit .324/.400/.595 with eight home runs and nine steals in the first 27 games of the season, which put him on pace to get near an unheard of 50-50 combination in steals and home runs. No one expected him to actually pull it off, but with the way he was progressing as a hitter, people weren’t lining up to bet against him either. There was virtually no ceiling for what Ramirez could accomplish in 2008.
Then came May 1st, and it brought a pretty big dose of reality to Ramirez’s season. Since that day, he’s hitting .257/.355/.343 with one home run and four stolen bases. He has half as many extra base hits in the same amount of plate appearances, as the power has just disappeared. Interestingly enough, Ramirez did something similar a year ago, when he hit .364/.462/.626 in April and .279/.326/.410 in May. For whatever reason (and there probably isn’t one, honestly), he’s come out of the gates charging, but keeps running into a wall around the 30 game mark.
He’s going to bounce, back, however. This kid is too good of a hitter, even with his contact problems, to struggle like this for much longer. He still has some work to do before he can challenge Albert Pujols and Chase Utley for the title of best player in the National League, but the talent is there.