Hanley Ramirez: Keeper Conundrum

Those following the shortstop keeper posts have noticed Hanley Ramirez’s absence. Excluding Ramirez was intentional, as his ranking process deserves its own post.

From 2007-2010 he dominated the shortstop position, and fantasy baseball as a whole. Ramirez hit .319/.394/.532 and averaged 26 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and 36 stolen bases. Entering 2011, Ramirez’s production had made him a no-doubt top tier choice year in and out. Exiting 2011, Ramirez is something of a question mark. In addition to a .712 OPS, Ramirez missed the final two months after having surgery to repair his right shoulder—the same shoulder that was operated on after the 2007 season. Ramirez reportedly injured the shoulder diving for a ball in early August, but missed 15 games in June with sciatica and numbness issues. Seemingly healthy, Ramirez looked like his old self in abusing the month of July to the tune of an .896 OPS, providing no answers to whether the sciatica issue relented, or if something else contributed to his poor first three months.

Ramirez did improve each month, although, it’s hard not to when you put up a .558 OPS in April and .666 in May with his talent level. Concerning is Ramirez’s continued decline in power. His isolated power dipped from .239 in 2008 to .175 in 2010, with a .201 offering in 2009. Reports suggest Ramirez is hale and hearty, but it’s hard to be optimistic that a player with two shoulder surgeries and a steady decline in power output is going to bounce back to form.

So, where does that leave Ramirez? If you think he rebounds to an MVP caliber level once again you’d obviously put him in the first tier. What if, like me, you have reservations? I’m inclined to believe he belongs in the second tier with Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, Elvis Andrus and Jimmy Rollins. There are some pessimists out there; would placing him in tier three along with Emilio Bonifacio, J.J. Hardy and Jhonny Peralta make sense? A reasonable argument can be made for each scenario, and that means Ramirez, who is a polarizing figure in the real world, is now the subject of much debate in fantasy, too.

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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

25 Responses to “Hanley Ramirez: Keeper Conundrum”

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  1. LRG says:

    Hanley is a 1rst tier SS. No doubt about it. Anyone that thinks he’s in the same tier as Jhonny Peralta is off their rocker. Jhonny Peralta has no chance of finishing as the #1 ranked player next year, Hanley does and for that reason alone he belongs in the top tier.

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    • ray says:

      #1 ranked player? I don’t see that at all.
      #1 overall in fantasy? So you are saying he will return to being a 30-30 player when his power has dropped each of the last 3 years and he is coming off shoulder surgery?

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      • Brian says:

        He’s saying he has a chance to finish #1 overall. Which is true. It might not be an enormous chance, but a guy like Peralta has basically zero chance of being that good.

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  2. Matt says:

    I agree. Hanley is still easily the #2 SS after Tulo. He has less injury concerns than Reyes and more upside.

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  3. Brad Johnson says:

    I’d call Hanley the second best fantasy SS but it’s close between him and Reyes. I’d also call them both 2nd tier guys. I think a tier exists anytime there is a significant gap between one guy and the next.

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    • Erik H says:

      So you think Tulo is that much better than the field?

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      • Max says:

        I’d say yes. Hanley has the upside to join him in tier 1, but for now he’s a step behind. With the shortstop position being as weak as it is, Hanley still has good value and be kept by just about everyone unless they have to pay a price based on his pre-2011 level (top 5 pick or Tulo-level money).

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      • ray says:

        I think so….Tulo has not seen the power dropoff that Hanley has and the SB difference isn;t enough for him to be in the same tier as Tulo.

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  4. AdamM says:

    I’d say that’s true in real-life, but not in fantasy baseball, where stolen bases are much more valuable.

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    • Stuck in a slump says:

      SB’s aren’t that valuable in fantasy either. You can punt SB’s and still win in a 5×5 league, but if you punt HR’s you’re in a world of hurt. Increasing categories only further weakens SB’s.

      HR = H, RBI, HR. SB = SB. I’d much rather have a 30-10 guy than a 20-20 guy.

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  5. Todd says:

    The reasons for leaving Ramirez out of the rankings seem underwhelming to me. There are plenty of other players that carry significant uncertainty. That’s something that should factor into the rankings, and does in the case of those other players. Ramirez’s case is not so startling or unique that it needs special handling.

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  6. kyle says:

    Where does Hanley rank among 3rd baseman if Reyes came to Miami and he slid over.

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  7. Pat says:

    You can take the risk on HanRam (and Reyes). I’ll spend my high picks on other players without the downside and grab Starlin or Asdrubal for SS. But seriously, is anyone in a keeper league really considering dumping HanRam?

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  8. Will H. says:

    Prior to 2011, his K, BB, ISO, and SB worsened significantly the previous two years compared to the two before… there was no way i was going to pay what one would have to to get, or keep, him given that. Now you have another year of decline. He will most likely rebound from last season, but I’d look to the two years before that, and not the ones even longer ago, as a ceiling. And that ceiling isn’t worth what he costs.

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    • MH says:

      That’s not really true about his K and BB rates. In 2008 his K% and BB% were both well higher his career marks and in 2007 they were both well below. In both years one was superb and the other around average. In 2009 and 2010 they were both above average in both years and closer to his career rates, but neither was as good as it was at its peak in either 2007 or 2008. Basically, if you took each two year period as an independent sample the overall rates would be about the same. Most disturbing is that he’s now had back to back seasons of a 51% GB%, which is clearly sapping his ISO and, more importantly for fantasy, his HR ability.

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  9. Telo says:

    Simply… this is egregiously wrong. First, no one believes your transparent excuse for excluding him. Next I would love to see your projection that has him in the second tier with the likes of Jimmy Rollins? Yikes. You don’t forget how to hit .306 when you’re 28, and he proved after the all-star break that his power is still there…as if he could forget how to hit home runs in the middle of his prime. He still steals bases at his career rate, and the marlins are only adding pieces. But possibly third tier. Sure.

    The bottom line is, we have projection systems for this very task, so we dont have to settle for the insanely biased and unscientific opinion of Erik Hahmann Unless you have knowledge of his injury and can project him at like 100 games, Hanley is a top 3 ss at worst.

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  10. B N says:

    Weird. Since this said “keeper” conundrum, I assumed this would be about the fact that next year could be his last at SS. It seems like there is a lot of talk about him sliding over to 3B. So then, his long term keeper value seems to be less certain than some guys who are certain to be playing the position in two years.

    The injury stuff doesn’t exactly seem like a keeper issue. I mean… wouldn’t that apply to any league?

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  11. Nick V. says:

    I don’t believe the excuse that the author intended all along to leave Hanley off the list. If that were the case, it should have been the first sentence in the first article. Going for clicks/comments section debates, perhaps?

    The reason for excluding him is also unconvincing. You’re not sure where he fits? Is FG just going to exclude anyone from these lists that they’re uncertain on? What’s the point?

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  12. Berry Gauntt says:

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  13. WilsonC says:

    A definite overreaction to a single year’s results (not just for Hanley, but for some of the other SS too)

    There’s two separate risk factors here: performance, and playing time. Both are related to injury concerns, but can be isolated to get a better understanding of the risk.

    From a performance standpoint, shoulder injuries can have a permanent impact on power, so it’s fair to question whether he’ll ever regain the lost power. However, even at last year’s level, his power/speed numbers prorate to the 15/30 range over 140-ish games, which is essentially equal to Jimmy Rollins. Similarly, his R and RBI prorate to the 80-ish, 70-ish level, like Rollins last year.

    As far as his batting average goes, he’s a player who consistently hit .300 or better prior to 2011, and .243 last year. Whether or not he rebounds to .300+ going forward, given his age and track record I’d say the risk of him being a liability in that area going forward is relatively small. It’s realistic to assume he’ll hit for an above average BA, with an attainable upside still over .300.

    So basically, his downside before playing time is considered is very close to Rollins’ upside, which is about his rebound 2011 level.

    Looking at the other tier-2 guys, there’s plenty of performance risk there:
    – Cabrera: The power may well be legit, but does that mean he’ll hit 15-20 HR in a typical year, or is 25 close to his true level? Also, he was a nice power/speed guy last year, but the SB have been all over the place. He could steal 15-20, but could just as easily drop to 5.

    – Castro: The batting average is real, but the power and speed are still open to question. His age is a definite plus factor, but there’s a realistic chance that he settles in as a guy with an empty batting average, single-digit power, and 10-15 SB.

    – Andrus: The speed is consistent, but not much greater than Hanley’s consistent level. He’s shown minimal power, and has yet to hit for a plus average, so right now he’s essentially a 2-category player, with neither category a safe bet to outperform Hanley on a consistent basis.

    – Rollins: The power/speed are reliable enough, though no better than Hanley’s 2011, but the average has been mediocre in recent years, with 2011 being a bit of a spike. .270 in possible, but .250-.260 is more likely. Also, given his age, we could see more decline here. Should his speed dip, his value could plummet.

    From a performance standpoint, the only way to fit Hanley into this tier performance-wise is to ignore his upside while ignoring the downside of all the others. Even if the only thing you get from Hanley is 2011 with more playing time and a league average BA (hardly an optimistic projection), all the others have a realistic downside much worse than that, and none can match Hanley’s upside even if you assume a cap of 15-20 HR.

    There’s also the playing time risk, which can’t be ignored. However, both Rollins and Reyes have had injury concerns in recent years too, and reports currently expect Hanley to be healthy for next season as far as I’ve heard. Is there any reason to be more concerned about his durability than that of the other two? It’s a risk, but one which some other SS share and which it doesn’t feel like it’s being looked at consistently.

    I don’t see him as hard to fit in at all. Hanley and Reyes strike me as belonging in a Tier 1.1, below Tulo due to the higher risk but with comparable upside, and clearly ahead of all the other SS.

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    • cs3 says:

      Great analysis Wilson.
      I agree with your conclusion and pretty much everything you wrote.
      This type of comparison should have been made by the author in the very first SS article

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  14. Chris says:

    I’m a believer Hanley will rebound, especially if the Fish sign Reyes. Can’t see him feeling complacent with him on the team. I think he’d most likely have something to prove, espec if moved off SS and forced to 3B. I touched on it over here. http://bit.ly/w54plD

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  15. batpig says:

    “A reasonable argument can be made for each scenario”

    No, there is NO reasonable argument that can be made for Hanley being in the same keeper tier as Peralta or Hardy or EMILIO FREAKING BONAFACIO. Not unless there has been a new definition of the word “reasonable” proposed somewhere.

    Let’s take a horrible pessimistic assumption and say Hanley at his worst last season was his “true talent”, and project him out to 150 games. He put up 55 R, 10 HR, 45 RBI, and 20 SB in 92 games. Prorate that to 150 games, and that’s 90 R, 16 HR, 73 RBI, 33 SB. In other words, 2011 Jimmy Rollins, and remember that is by far the worst performance of Hanley’s career.

    So you are talking about a player who for several years competed with Albert Pujols as the #1 pick in fantasy drafts, even coming into 2011, and whose performance FLOOR is Jimmy Rollins, and you think there is a “reasonable” argument that he could be with those 3rd tier guys?

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