Another week, another position. Hopefully the conclusion of the World Series (congrats to the SF Giants) and the concerns over Hurricane Sandy haven’t deterred you from staying in tune with the rest of the baseball world, because Zach Sanders has just released his Third Base End of Season Rankings and like the good minions of RotoGraphs that we are, we are spending the week discussing players from the hot corner. So let’s scroll on down to number eight in the rankings and talk a little Hanley Ramirez, shall we?
First off, let’s just be clear. This is a very different player whom we are talking about now than we did back between 2006 and 2009. Though not even 30 years old, his whole career is not sitting in front of him any longer. He’s not swiping 50-plus bases and thanks to in-season bumps and bruises and eventual shoulder surgery, his days of even cracking the 30-home run barrier might be behind him. That’s not to say that he won’t have another 30-30 season ever, but if he did, it would probably be more of an aberration as opposed to the norm.
Though his end of season totals have been in an overall decline, there hasn’t been much fluctuation in his peripherals. Sure, his strikeout rate has gone up a bit and his walk rate has been up and down, but Hanley is still posting the same contact rates now as he did back in 2008 with the only major difference being that he’s making more contact with pitches outside the zone than he had in the past. Perhaps the lack of clean contact is what is affecting his BABIP issues and subsequent batting average woes, but he also lowered his GB/FB this past season and saw his HR/FB jump back up to 14.7-percent, a number he came close to back in 2010. Again, there haven’t been any wild swings in either direction for him which could indicate that where he is right now, is likely where he’ll stay until the career truly tapers off and he is no longer a viable asset in either fantasy or reality.
But while Hanley may not be that no-brainer, first-round draft choice that he once was, he still has the ability to be a highly productive member of the fantasy community. Thanks to a late-season trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramirez was able to hang onto that shortstop eligibility that owners were dreading watching him lose when the Marlins moved him to third to make room for Jose Reyes. As you can see by Sanders’ list, Ramirez still maintained a fairly high ranking amongst third basemen, finishing eighth overall. But move his totals over to the shortstop position (something we’ll likely see next week) and you’re probably looking at someone in the top five. So while the Dodgers may still be up in the air as to which position they will have him play in 2013, his 57 games played at short are more than enough to keep him as a fantasy shortstop in virtually every league next year.
What it’s really going to come down to, moving forward, is health and attitude. A full season post-surgery already under his belt is encouraging and there are enough veterans on this Dodger team to help keep his attitude in check — something the Marlins didn’t have the past two years. The strength of the surrounding lineup is relatively the same and there’s not much change in ballpark factors going from Dolphin Stadium to Sun Life to Chavez Ravine. If his health and head are right, then perhaps a return to 30-30 status is less of a pipe dream, but considering he’s probably fallen to somewhere around late second round status, even a 20-20 season at shortstop makes him worth the pick.